ISSUE TOTAL SIZE
Two brothers, each earning a very modest living as barbers, in different shops, decided to make good use of their down time between haircuts. It was that one decision, regarding how they managed their time, that set in motion a hobby, and how millions of dollars would be spent in America in the years to come. Whittling and painting a wooden duck while sitting in a barber shop waiting for a customer to show up, those guys would have lauged their heads off if you'd told them that simple wooden duck would fetch $50,000 in the years to come.
First Day of Issue
October 25, 2002
NY, NY 10199
Today, waterfowl hunting could be classified as “sport,” but that was not the case in the 1930s. With the Depression in their rear-view mirror, and a foggy road ahead, many a waterman hunted waterfowl just to put food on the table. In Crisfield, Maryland, two brothers Lemuel and Stephen Ward, having descended from a long line of watermen, took up barbering as profession. Steve owned and operated a small barber shop in the side yard of his home. Lem worked for other shops in town cutting hair, although he never really enjoyed the profession he couldn’t be picky, as it was his only way to make a living due to a crippling birth defect and chronic bronchitis. The brothers, were themselves, great hunters and fishermen and took full advantage of all that Chesapeake Bay had to offer. I guess business wasn’t exactly booming in the barber shops, because while waiting for customers, the two men began to whittle ducks from cedar and other soft woods creating decoys for hunting. It certainly livened up the shop as patrons would stop by just to see what they were making. They lined their shelves with decoys, and a few hair products, but the sales from the decoys outweighed the sales from the hair tonic. In 1933, haircuts were 15 cents and decoys were $1.25. Let’s be fair though, more time went into carving the decoy than cutting a head of hair, so the price was certainly fair. Decoys became very important to the hunters in the area, and the type of decoy the Wards created was called a shooting stool. The idea is to attract waterfowl to come in close enough for a kill. With poverty so common place, most decoys were made of scrap wood, such as a section of a pole, and were painted with ordinary house paint. That however, was not going to suffice for the Ward brothers—these guys were perfectionist.
Read the article in its entirety in the December 2015
Bevil newsletter, which accompanies the cover.
Take a trip
Ducks just aren't a subject of which I've painted frequently on a cover. There is the Federal Duck Stamp, and I seriously considered painting an issue this past year, but backed away from it. I'm fond of the topic, with the grays and browns. Down here on the Gulf, an ugly, dreary, gray day is a great day for duck hunting.