The Ward Brothers
Lem and Steve Ward began carving decoys in 1918 in order to put food on the table. Their father, Travis had drowned in a boating accident that year and the loss of income left the family almost destitute.
Unlike most decoy makers of the time, Lem and Steve gave their carvings unique expressions by turning their heads and placing them in different poses. By the 1920's, Lem & Steve took a major step and began creating decorative bird carvings. Working as barbers, the brothers' love of the marshes and wildlife found them, on many days, out on the Chesapeake Bay observing the birds. Between haircuts, the brothers were carving decoys.
Lem painted the birds after Steve carved them. The work accomplished during this period has proven to be the basis for much of the decorative bird carving that followed. The concept of feather insertion was developed at this time. Unlike the more refined feathers of today, they would use the wood from produce crates for their feathers.
Though still using techniques developed in the 1920's and 30's, their carvings stand among the best works produced by contemporary bird carvers.
In 1974, the brothers were given honorary doctoral degrees by Salisbury State College. In 1979 Governor Hughes made Lem Ward a living state treasure for the contributions he made to American Art. He was recognized in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. In 1983, Lem was named a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow.
Steve Ward, born 1895, passed away in 1976. Lem Ward, born in 1896, passed away in 1984.
For more information on the Ward Brothers and their decoys, look for the following books:
L.T. Ward & Bro. Wildfowl Counterfeiters by North American Decoys
The Story of Lem Ward by Glenn Lawson
Pioneer Decoy Carvers: A Biography of Lemuel and Stephen Ward by Barry R. Berkey
The Ward Brother's Decoys, A Collectors Guide by Ronald J. Gard & Brian J. McGrath
Closed for Business by Steve Ward