the early 1900's the Mason Decoy Factory (1896-1924) of Detroit,
Michigan, advertised themselves as the "Largest Manufacturers
Of High Grade Decoys In The World".
J. Mason, with a partner, George Avery, founded the W. J. Mason
Company in 1882. The
Mason Decoy Factory had a rather inauspicious start in a shed
behind William Mason's house on Tuscola Street in Detroit,
Michigan. The official date the business was established is
1896, but many feel it was much earlier than this.
Mason was an excellent hunter and a member of the 'Old Club'
on Harsen's Island in the St. Clair Flats delta area. His
decoys proved to be so successful that he moved his decoy business
from his home to 456-464 Brooklyn Avenue in 1903. His shop
was in the back of the Nicholson Lumber Company.
were used when cutting the bodies on the lathes. Heads were
rough-turned and sanded later. Before taking the decoys upstairs
in crates, the head and body were joined, Upstairs there were
three benches with an apprentice and a senior painter at each
bench. Drying racks were on each side of the painters. In addition,
this is where the puttyers did their work. They filled in around
the necks of the Standard Grades decoys with white putty. The
fit of the head and body on these grades wasn't perfect, so
the putty gave the neck a smooth look. The apprentices put
on the primer coat of white lead, linseed oil, and turpentine
after the puttying was done and put them on the racks to dry,
The senior painter first painted the body with the correct
plumage, let it dry, and then painted the head. The glass eyes
were added last. Before insertion, the eyes were painted on
the back. On
hollow-bodied Premier and Challenge models, white lead sealed
the two body parts before being nailed together.
the decoys were completely finished, they were balanced by
floating them in a wash tub and adding the lead weight. All
decoys were wrapped separately in newspaper and packed by the
dozen in wooden crates. The Premiers had the newspaper they
were wrapped in coated with linseed oil. This kept the paper
from sticking to the paint.
as the business was, it was dependent on seasonal demand. They
needed to utilize the factory full-time. He and a friend, Fred
Rinshed, a paint salesman, went into business together. They
combined the decoys business with paint manufacturing. They
incorporated the Rinshed-Mason Company in 1919. Although neither
one had experience in paint manufacturing, they hired a chemist
and started production. The paint manufacturing became so successful
that the decoy operation was closed down in 1924. The twenty-seven
year history had come to a close.
This is an
early Mason Wigeon Drake decoy in original finish. The
neck filler line has been restored and there are a couple
of other minor touch ups, however, this 1920's decoy still
retains 99% of its original paint. Has slight
wear to the tip of the bill. Still retains its original lead