Conklin, Roy

A half-round Canada goose wall plaque by Roy Conklin, Jr.

p4A ItemID D9928180
An early pair of flying blue-winged teal drake half-models by Roy Conklin

p4A ItemID E8982833
Roy Conklin at his workbench -
courtesy of

Roy Conklin, Master Duck Carver

A native of New York’s Alexandria Bay on the St. Lawrence River, Roy Conklin, born in 1909, was a self-described “jack-of-trades”, as a young man coming to maturity during the Great Depression in a small town and rural environment.

Conklin worked as a boat captain on the St. Lawrence, a hunting guide and a carpenter. Having an artistic bent, he spent some time taking art classes at Columbia University and working in the printing operation of a city newspaper. However his love of hunting, fishing and the St. Lawrence river brought him back to the town of Ogdenburg where he settled and worked, primarily as a carpenter.

A whittler on the side, Conklin was a student of the legendary decoy carver Chauncey Wheeler (died 1937), who taught him the basics of carving. Conklin began his thirty-year carrer in duck carving in 1930 about the time of greater interest in ornamental models of ducks for display in homes rather than the traditional decoys for duck hunting. He made these models a specialty and was particularly innovative in carving longer, thinner necks and in using bolder colors in painting the carving. Rather than concentrating on feather painting as popular in earlier times Conklin frequently used a comb-like device to run along the freshly painted back of the duck to simulate feathers.

With this skill, artistry and innovation Conklin built up a business sufficient to carry him through the Depression. He was one of the principle carvers to introduce the half-model duck in flight for use as a wall mount. These were wildly, and widely popular, attracting orders from the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch in New York and Harrods of London. Business was so strong that Conklin hired his father and brother to help with the carving and painting.

Today collectors of birds and waterfowl carvings prize Conklin’s work for its innovation and form and consider him to be the most artistic of all the St. Lawrence river carvers.

Information for this reference note was collected from local press reports from the 1930′s, and from the book The Great Book of Wildfowl Decoys by Joe Engers and Bill Bruckner, 2000, The Lyons Press, New York, a principle reference work in this field.

Reference note by p4A editorial staff, November 2011.

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