G. Bert "Chips" Graves (1887-1956) Peoria, IL
Bert Graves was a carpenter and policeman before he started carving in the first half of the twentieth century. Lead weights affixed to his early decoys identify the carver as "B.G." (Loomis 312). As Graves' cottage industry blossomed, decoys appeared with "G.B. GRAVES DECOY CO. PEORIA ILL" stamped in relief on the cast lead weight (Loomis 312).
Graves copied Elliston's patterns and painting style and infused few of his own personal variations. The glass eyes he used were high quality and set a bit lower than Elliston's. He detailed the decoy bills with attentive carving and augmented his handtools with a power saw and sander. While it is possible that Graves did some of his own painting, it seems he chose to leave this task in more capable hands. He applied a base coat of primer to the lure and then sent it on to Catherine Elliston or his sister-in-law Millie. These women did fine jobs painting the hens with brushes only and combining brushstroke and combing techniques for the drakes. The $70 per dozen that Graves initially charged for his decoys was increased to $100 per dozen as his talent became better known and respected (Pennington, "Graves" 18). Graves decoys that are found today are almost always in their original paint and have resisted cracks and splits due to Graves' craftsmanship. Graves concentrated his efforts on producing canvasback and pintail pair decoys, and mallard, black duck and Pacific brant drake decoys.