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EIDER DRAKE
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EIDER DRAKE

EBEN WEED EATON, DEER ISLE AREA, COAST OF MAINE, MID-19TH CENTURY

Details
EIDER DRAKE
EBEN WEED EATON, DEER ISLE AREA, COAST OF MAINE, MID-19TH CENTURY
stenciled under the tail 6, along with the initials E.W.E
17 ¾ in. long
Provenance
Sold, James D. Julia Gallery, Fairfield, Maine, 25 August 1985, lot 592A
Literature
J. Barnitz et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Art of the Western Hemisphere, New York, 1988, vol. II, p. 295, no. 180 (illustrated in color, p. 294).
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Lot Essay

This wonderful and very early eider drake from Deer Island, Maine is believed to have been made by Eben Weed Eaton (1838-1888). Mr. Eaton resided near Deer Island and Isle au Haut at a place known as Eben’s Head, at the entrance to Duck Harbor. Eaton was a local fisherman, lobsterman and ship’s carpenter. He was one of the first in the area to build lobster traps.
The bottom of the bird bears a stenciled numeral “6” and the initials “E.W.E.” for the attributed maker’s name. It is certain that there was a rig of at least ten of these birds produced as there are three decoys with stenciled numerals on the bottom, the largest number being “10”.

Gene Kangas chronicles the history of “duck driving,” an early method of “taking ducks” through the use of nets as recorded in George Lawrence Hosmer’s 1886 book, An Historical Sketch of the Town of Deer Isle, Maine (G. Kangas, "Duck Harbor 'Snakey Neck' Eiders," Decoy Magazine, January/ February 2018). The unique construction and the unusual placement of screw eyes behind the heads of these eiders supports Kangas’s theory that these works served not only as decoys but also as floats used to support the nets used to “take ducks”.

For additional information on these unusual decoys, their maker, and how they were used in the rough Atlantic waters off the coast of Maine in and around the mid-19th century, please see the following references:

Hal Sorenson, Decoy Collector’s Guide, 1965, p. 2.
William J. Mackey, Jr., American Bird Decoys, 1965, p. 243.
Adele Earnest, The Art of the Decoy, 1965, p. 117.
Quintina Colio, American Decoys, 1972, p. 29.
George Reiger, Floaters and Stickups, 1986, p. 22.
Gene and Linda Kangas, Decoys, 1992, p. 187.

By Frank Schmidt

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