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Ward Brothers Duck Decoys

Once barbers by trade, the Ward Brothers became world-renowned decoy carvers in the 20th century, creating thousands of pieces in their Chrisfield, Maryland workshop. Known as avid hunters and sportsmen, it’s said their close observations of birds helped make their decoys very realistic.

In 1920, brothers Lem and Steve Ward began wood carving in between customer visits at their barber shops, selling pieces for around $1 each. During the Depression, people hunted more to feed their families, subsequently increasing demand for the decoys. Steve specialized in carving while Lem concentrated on painting. By the end of the '50s, the two stopped cutting hair and subsequently worked full time making decoys. During the same time period, plastic decoys entered the marketplace, prompting the brothers to switch from the manufacture of hunting decoys to the craft of decorative art.

Today, Ward Brothers decoys are often popular additions to private collections. Some of their work is preserved at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland. Most carvings were signed by one or both brothers with the L.T. Ward-Bro insignia and carving year on the decoy’s underside.

Quick Facts

  • The Ward Brothers have been featured in "National Geographic" three times as well as in "Nature’s Counterfeiters: Lem and Steve Ward," a documentary film about the the brothers
  • On a combined 2008 Christie’s and Guyette & Schmidt, Inc. auction, a 1928 widgeon decoy sold for $133,000, the highest price recorded to date for a Ward Brothers decoy
  • Steve and Lem never finished elementary school, nor did they drive cars. They seldom traveled, but spent many years observing wildlife and hunting in the marshes and along the shores of Chesapeake Bay

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