George K. “Skippy” or “Home Run" Barto (1880-1959) Joliet, IL
Faced with an early retirement from Illinois Steel Company, George Barto turned to his acquired love of hunting and fishing and began to carve decoys in the Illinois River style. Using cedar for his early works and sugar pine for the later ones, Barto carved a rough and practical decoy. Both his regular and oversized decoys are hollow with strips of lead attached for keel weights. These weights are impressed with "B" or "BBB" for identification (Loomis 54, 213). Before painting, Barto primed each decoy with a coat of white lead. With strong brushstrokes, Barto painted his own decoys with bold colors that show little evidence of blending, though he did use some combing techniques on his pintail lures. Barto sold his decoys for $35 a dozen and enjoyed wide distribution through his nephew in California (Pennington, "Barto" 10). Some of the decoys shipped to California have a different impression on the keel. For whatever reason, Barto marked these with "Skippy."
Because Barto's popularity reached outside of Illinois, he required the assistance of Artie Bennet and a long-time hunting and fishing friend, Ed Startz. With their help, he made working decoys, miniatures, half-size decoratives and other wooden products for commercial sale. To complement the decoys, he crafted duck and crow calls of red cedar with a silver band around the large end of the call. Edna and Charlie Perdew were also friends of Barto and his wife Josephine. No doubt they exchanged critiques and suggestions among themselves.