The April favorite three speaker was George Munkert. He said that most of his collection is Long Island cork, but his three favorites consist of wooden bodied birds. The first decoys he showed and talked about was actually his third favorite. It was a roothead by Solomon Ketcham (1841-1928). George gave a brief history of Solomon Ketcham. He was born in Amityville and at age 16 he apprenticed as a wheelwright in Huntington where he also worked part time at Walt Whitman’s newspaper “Huntington Long Islander”. Solomon worked in commercial insurance and was a founder of the Bank of Amityville in 1891. This sheldrake was in the rig of Delancy Townsend Smith, a prominent Amityville farmer. It bears his brand DTS.
His second decoy was a solid wood black duck by Nathaniel Kenneth Smith (1893-1975). “Than” as he was known, was a builder along with his father Samuel and brothers Augustus and George. He had a furniture business in Brooklyn at one point and he was the Fire Chief. He was also a village building inspector in Amityville from 1945-1953. Than, his brother Gus and their father Sam all carved similar decoys, although Nathaniel’s decoys have slightly longer bodies. Several of his father decoys are in the Amityville Historical Society and also the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead. Some were used at the “Swan Island Club” on Currituck Sound in North Carolina. My decoy was from Thans own rig and has his “NKS” brand carved on it. These two decoys and a few others were in a burlap bag in someone’s cellar and given to George when he purchased a table saw from him at that started George on his decoy collecting way back in 1980.
The last decoy George showed and talked about is really his number one favorite. It is a Drake Redhead, the actual carver is not known but it is by one of two carvers. Either Andy Meyer (1872-1960) or Jack Rufus (dates unknown). When George got this decoy it was painted as a Drake Broadbill. Because of the white stripe on his bill, George knew he was meant to be a majestic Redhead he was born as. So George had the black paint professionally removed. His favorite decoy is hollow with a ¾” bottom board held in place with 36 nails (same as Andy Meyer). It is oversized with a “bull” neck, slightly turned head and a U-shaped tail (trademark of Andy Meyer).It has a beautiful “sailboat“ keel which extends past his body to the end of his tail with a hand poured keel weight. This type of keel and platform mounted head makes George believe it was carved by “Jack Rufus”. Jack was a resident of the New Baltimore, Saint Claire Flats Michigan area where Andy Meyer also lived. The decoy has old working repaint and has been lightly scarred by shot. George wishes he could talk and tell us all about his travels these 90 plus years. If he could talk he would tell us about the cold weather, the waves and the ice he was in. The long hot summers he spent under someone’s deck. Or the many seasons he spent being bounced around in a duckboat until his own bottom board chines got worn down. But now George said his hard times are over, he can get lazy with George and then hopefully his grandson after him. Because every time George walks past him each day, he says to him “Good morning Red’.
Thank you to George for sharing the stories and detailed history of your favorite three decoys and the men who carved them.