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Black Bellied Plover

Thomas C. Wilson (1865-1936)

Ipswich, MA, c. 1890

12.5" long


Discovered by early collector Nina Fletcher Little in 1951, part of a small group of about a dozen duck and shorebird decoys.  The majority of this finding was later put on display during the 'Tollers & Tattlers' exhibit.  A multi-year exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (1989-1992).  Examples of his work are highly desireable, not hitting the public market often, and having found a home in some of the most prominent collections including; The Johnson Collection, The Donal C. O'Brien Jr. Collection, and The Winsor White Collection.


Bold beetle head and deeply relief carved wings flowing back to a raised wing split over a bold paddle tail; typical of birds made in this region. Complete with black glass eyes.  As a passionate sportsman and eventually conservation officer, Wilson's attention to detail is a step above others in his area.  Unique to his works, this Plover displays looped feather edging with a soft, almost watercolor like feather shading.


Wilson's early life careers of Shipbuilder and Painter seemed destined to provide his abilities as an exceptional decoy carver and painter. Based on historical literature regarding Plum Island history, it is known that Wilson was a market hunter and managed blinds in the area where lucky sportsmen got to test their abilities over these fabulous decoys.  One of these sportsmen was waterfowling nobility Dr. John C. Phillips, credited with pushing Elmer Crowell to create some of the finest decoys known.  Dr. Phillips noted that between 1898-1905 he harvested waterfowl out of a blind managed by Wilson near the southern edges of Plum Island / Mainland Ipswisch.  Where aside from hunting, they enjoyed mutual conversations on conservation and ornithology.


More can be found on this carver and rigmates by referencing:

Copley Fine Art Auctions - The Johnson Collection 2021 - Lot 14 - Yellowlegs $26,400

Guyette & Deeter, Inc. - Decoys At Auction August 2021 - Lot 152 - Willet $24,000


Condition: 100% Original condition with a fine dry surface.  A couple pant flakes and tight neck seam separation on right side.



Hal Sorenson, "Decoy Collector's Guide," Burlington, IA, 1965, p. 12, rigmate pictured on the wall in a photograph of Winsor White's home in Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Decoy Magazine, Lewes, DE, September/October 1989, cover and pp. 21-27, rigmates illustrated and discussed.


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Black Bellied Plover - Thomas Wilson


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