Updated: Feb 4
Sometime around 1890, Harvey Stevens received a large order for decoys from Dr. William S. Overton of Binghamton, New York. Dr. Overton hunted at Henderson Harbor on Lake Ontario and he could afford the "Finest Decoys in the World". Overton’s rig of Stevens Decoys consists entirely of bluebills and redheads; all of them are drakes. Every decoy is hot branded "W.S.O" on the underside. They have some mysterious anomalies which are described in my book "The Essential Guide To Stevens Decoy". Overton used a Parker double barrel 10 gauge shotgun and he didn’t think twice about taking birds on the water. Every WSO rig decoy has shot marks across its body or head. Some are severely battered with Overton’s lead pellets.
Overton used hunting guides so he didn’t worry that his rig was heavy, and he left it to the guides to keep the rig in useful shape. Most of the heads are repainted and it is more obvious on the redheads. Nearly every decoy from the rig has a replaced bill. However, it seems Overton insisted they never repaint the bodies. Thank you Dr. Overton!
Extremely rare redhead with original paint on head and original bill (Log #238)
W.S.O. hot branded on a bluebill drake (Log #136)
The entire W.S.O. rig was left to Overton’s hunting guide, Arthur Hicks, and stored in large drum barrels for many decades until uncovered by Hicks’ grandson, Bill Smith around 1987. Bill contends that some of the rig had been stolen prior to his inheritance. The rig was down to a couple dozen by then and Bill sold a few privately and auctioned most of them between 1988 and 1996.
Learn more about the W.S.O. rig in my book. The Essential Stevens Decoy Database has more than 2 dozen W.S.O. rig decoys recorded with details.
Harry Stevens (left, and no relation to the Stevens Brothers) and Bill Smith (right) with a 44 lb. coyote trapped at Stony Island in the fall of 1961.
Group of five W.S.O. rig decoys in my collection 1994.
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