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 Phineas Reeves  (1833 - 1892)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: hollow Canada geese carved decoys

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Rare hollow carved Canada goose
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Phineas Reeves (1833 – 1892) Long Point, Ontario [1]

Attached below is a brief edited biography courtesy of The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art:
Three generations of the Reeves family were employed as guides and decoy* carvers for the Long Point Company (1866 – 1960) a private duck hunting club on the North shore of Lake Erie. The acreage is now a Provincial park.

Phineas (1833 – 1892) [1], a native of Bristol, England and the progenitor of the family was the first manager and guide for the club. He is well known for his classic hollow Canada geese decoys. Two of his sons, John (1860 – 1896) and Charles (1877 – 1941) carried on their father's work making decoys and acting as guides for club members. Jack (1904 – 1986), a son of Charles is probably the most prolific of the Reeves carvers. [2]

Like his brothers Havilah and Amaram, Phineas Reeves was a painter and worked several years inscribing patterns on buggies and carriages. He later moved on to a small factory in Port Rowan to paint furniture. After working as a painter, Reeves became the first manager and punter of the prestigious Long Point Company, which catered to Boston and New York sportsmen. In this way, he established an association with the company that was carried on by his brothers, sons and grandsons.

Reeves designed his own patterns for the hollow decoys he carved from cedar or cork and fit with basswood heads. He extended the tails of his birds and gave them a backward curving neck. His style is both versatile and experimental. Some of his early decoys are hollowed just a bit and fitted with an open doughnut shaped bottom board. This unique feature created a vacuum to support realistic floating. Through carving and painting, Reeves dabbled in different methods of delineating the wings. Experimentation never marred any of the sophisticated canvasback, goose, pintail or teal decoys Reeves produced. Each lure reflects high standards requiring patience and skill. Phineas Reeves taught his sons how to carve and through his work, influenced other area carvers.

Most Reeves decoys are well carved, hollow bodied and artfully painted. The similarity in form and style among the Reeves carvers can make it difficult to determine which one made a particular decoy. Decoys made by Charles and another Reeves family member, Frank (1870 – 1938) were often covered in canvas in deference to club members who preferred that the birds not "shine" when wet. Decoys made by the Reeves remained with the club and accurate club records and stampings help to identify Reeves carved birds.
Source for above: The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury, MD.
[1] Please note: The Ward Museum shows a death year for Phineas of 1892. Our sources do not agree on his death year, for example – Decoys – North America's One Hundred Greatest has 1896 and The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys has 1892.

[2] According to Traditions in Wood: A History of Wildfowl Decoys in Canada (see book references) Phineas (1833 – 1892) had four sons – Henry (life dates not stated), John (1861 – 1896), Francis (1870 – 1938) and Charles (1872 – 1941). John, Francis and Charles were decoy carvers. All four sons worked, at one time or other, for the Long Point Company. For a time, Charles also managed the Big Creek Club on Long Point Bay and John was the “head keeper” at the St. Clair Flats Shooting Company. For more information about the St. Clair Flats Shooting Company see the AskART record for Thomas Chambers.

Additional sources:
Decoys – North America's One Hundred Greatest (2011), by Loy S. Harrell Jr. (see AskART book references)

Collecting Antique Bird Decoys and Duck Calls: An Identification and Price Guide (2003), by Carl Luckey and Russell E. Lewis (see AskART book references)

The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys (2000), edited by Joe Engers (see AskART book references)

Decoys (1992), by Gene and Linda Kangas (see AskART book references)

Decoying: St Clair to the St Lawrence (1988), by Bernard W. Crandall (see AskART book references)

Traditions in Wood: A History of Wildfowl Decoys in Canada (1987), edited by Patricia Fleming (see AskART book references)

Ontario Decoys II: Some Carvers and Regional styles (1986), by Bernie Gates (see AskART book references)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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