(Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum)
Kent’s Carvers and Clubs: Guides, Gunners and Co-Ops is a new waterfowling exhibition opening Saturday, April 14, 2018 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.
The exhibition shares the stories of Maryland’s Kent County carvers and hunting clubs through a collection of decoys, oral histories, historic photographs, and other artifacts.
In the Rock Hall area of Kent County, virtually every young man grew up learning to hunt waterfowl in the early 1900s. That intimate knowledge of birds, their habits and their habitat translated into a marketable skill as gunning became the pastime of the wealthy. Rich photo documentation from the 1930s and 40s illustrate the camaraderie of the well-to-do business and professional men who flocked to Kent’s gunning shores to spend icy mornings in booby blinds, awaiting the arrival of ducks and geese and warm evenings by the club woodstove, where they feasted on local delicacies.
Oral history excerpts reveal the stories of hardworking guides, who found vital supplemental seasonal income. Captain John Glenn fashioned hand-chopped decoys from his Piney Neck home, “Decoy Farm,” and began to work with other local carvers to supply a wide variety of stool. While the “Rock Hall School of Carvers” was likely influenced by the work of Susquehanna Flats decoy makers, Kent carver Charlie Joiner learned directly from legendary Havre de Grace carver R. Madison Mitchell, and befriended the Ward brothers of Crisfield, developing his own distinct and notable style.
“Kent County’s bountiful waterfowl population and picturesque shorelines drew gentlemen hunters from the cities to organized gunning clubs, especially along the shores near Rock Hall and Eastern Neck,” said CBMM Collections Manager Jenifer Dolde, curator of the exhibition. “Knowledgeable local men served as guides, savvy property owners leased their land for clubs, and skillful Kent carvers created co-ops to craft decoys for the rigs of neighbors and club members.”
“Kent County has an enduring waterfowling culture—one that continues to flourish in the fields, necks and islands of the deeply-rural region,” said CBMM Chief Curator Pete Lesher. “We’re grateful for the support of this exhibition to be able to explore this important part of Chesapeake history with our guests.”
Kent’s Carvers and Clubs: Guides, Gunners and Co-Ops is generously sponsored by Judy and Henry Stansbury, and the world’s leading decoy auction firm, Guyette & Deeter. Entry to the exhibition is free for CBMM members or with general admission. Kent’s Carvers and Clubs will travel to the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. November 9-11, 2018, and return to CBMM’s Waterfowling Building through March 31, 2019.
Established in 1965, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a world-class maritime museum dedicated to preserving and exploring the history, environment, and culture of the entire Chesapeake Bay, with the values of relevancy, authenticity, and stewardship guiding its mission. Serving more than 70,000 guests each year, CBMM’s campus includes a floating fleet of historic boats and numerous indoor and outdoor spaces, situated in a park-like, waterfront setting along the Miles River and St Michaels harbor. Charitable gifts to CBMM’s annual fund help support the non-profit’s exhibition, education, and restoration programs, with online giving and more information at cbmm.org/donate.
From now through October, 2018, CBMM’s guests can experience the log-hull restoration of the 1889 bugeye, Edna E. Lockwood, with more information at ednalockwood.org.