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The following was compiled from, a Biography of Charles H. Perdew, written by Don Clark, and from a interview conducted by Cay Clark with Mrs. Almira Clark (wife of the author).

For fifty years Don Clark was a boat pusher and duck guide for the Swan Lake Duck Club (just north of Henry, Illinois). Aboat pusher takes the hunters to the duck blinds, puts out decoys, and calls the ducks in as they fly over so they can be shot in flight as they come into range. Originally live birds were used as decoys, but for repeated use and controlled placement more and more hunters used wooden decoys. Because of the keen eye sight of the ducks, the decoys needed to be as realistic as possible. Charles H. (Charlie) Perdew, also of Henry, made decoys and duck calls for waterfowlers in Swan Lake and other duck clubs in the area.

Don Clark used Perdew’s decoys and duck wrote the biography of this extraordinary m Perdew was born in Putnam County, Illinois three miles east of Henry, Illinois on April 30 his brothers helped on the family farm and i he first ventured into decoy making. As a b

he took the side rails off an old rope bed, cut them up in pieces and threw them in a fire to char. He then retrieved the wood, took a drawknife and cut some of the charring away to make Bluebill duck decoys. He used these decoys to shoot ducks near his home, selling them in the Chicago market. Little did he know that this practical endeavor would some-day help turn wooden ducks into American folk art that would be in demand by collectors all over the world. Charles Perdew had many talents and many paths to follow before he made a name for himself carving duck decoys.

In 1902 Charlie married Edna Haddon of Henry who started painting his duck and crow decoys. Between 1903 – 1909 Charlie perfected his crow call and patented it November 2, 1909. Together the Perdews worked and watched the decoy

usiness row. In 924 Charlie ntered a pair of handmade mallard decoys in a decoy ontest at Abercrombie & Fitch of New York

and won second place

for his craftsmanship. The Perdews made and sold thousands of decoys over the years, as many as 300 each season. But Charlie especially enjoyed turning out a decoy for a customer to give for a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion. Edna Perdew did all the painting until 1941, when she contracted an illness that prevented her from painting. Charlie then carved and painted, but because of her unique technique, Mrs. Perdew’s painted decoys eventually became more valuable than those painted by her husband.

Charlie used various kinds of tools over the years, many of which he made himself. In later years he used a band saw to cut out the body and head blocks, but it should come as no surprise that Perdew still did the shaping with a worn

he head and body were given a final nd then of course, hand painted. All of ecoys were hollow, but his decorative ure decoys were carved from solid wood. al decoys, duck calls and many species s but Perdew was never able to keep up he carved each item by hand.

Decoys and duck calls carved during the mid-1800’s to the mid-1900’s are now in demand by collectors and are consid-ered great works of art. Carvers crafted original pieces with precision and attention to detail, greatly increasing their artistic and monetary value in today’s art market.

The LakeviewMuseum in Peoria, Illinois, exhibits the folk art of duck decoys, displaying waterfowl created by some of the best carvers in the country. These lifelike decoys with their distinctive patterns are a special folk art, and one need not be a hunter to admire them.

Charles Henry Perdew passed away September 21, 1963 at age 89. As Clark wrote in Perdew’s biography, Charlie was “a rugged individualist, a great decoy maker and…a fine American who many people shall never forget.”

“Of all our folk arts, none is more strikingly American

than the decoy”



unique works of ART

and Charles H. Perdew



Vigore -

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