In late 1927, Walter Evans established the Evans Decoy Company in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. It was very likely that Walter was carving decoys several years earlier on a part time basis, but a fall from a scaffold at his job at Flambeau River Lumber Co. disabled him and the Evans Decoy Co. was officially in business.
Walter Evans purchased several duplicating lathes from the Rhinelander Boat Co. after their plan to build decoys never materialized. Evans offered his decoys in 5 different models: hollow mammoth, solid mammoth, hollow standard, solid standard and competitive. He also made special order decoys to customer specifications. The most rare Evans species are redheads, black ducks, coot, pintail and blue wing teal. Standard and competitive grades did not have highly carved bills, the rest did. Evans hollow decoys were produced by drilling and plugging a 2-1/2 inch hole in the breast of the decoy (you can clearly see the circular plug in the breast). Many Evans decoys used thin wood wedges inserted in body cracks caused by improper drying of the wood he used. Mammoth and Standard models were sanded smooth while the competitive models clearly show the lathe turning marks. Most Evans decoys have elaborate and impressive scratch or comb painting techniques on the bodies. He used oil paints that weathered extremely well.
Walter Evans was no longer producing decoys in the early 1930’s because of health issues, but his son-in-law (C.A. Ellingboe, an undertaker in Ladysmith) took over until 1934 when the Evans Decoy Co. ceased operation.
Evans Decoys are highly sought after by Wisconsin collectors. Warman’s Duck Decoys (by Russell Lewis) lists the value range of Evans decoys from $750-$5000, while the rarest species command the highest value.
- Most have elaborate bill carving,
- oval, flat bottom wood decoy,
- most are ink stamped “Evans Decoy” on the bottom,
- a mild to moderate upswept bill,
- wood wedges are seen in body cracks, and
- unique almond shaped wing patterns.
Maybe you have an Evans Decoy on your mantel or stored away in the shed. If you do, you truly do have a Wisconsin original!