John Blair, Sr. (1842-1928) Philadelphia, PA
John Blair was both a wheelwright and carrlage maker that decorated his carriages and sleighs with magnificent designs. After retiring, Blair became a gentleman farmer, spent much of his time hunting and fishing and joined the Bridesburg and Frankford gun clubs. Blair carved his own decoys, but there still remains some confusion concerning the identification of his work. The numerous pieces that display Blair characteristics, but are not attributed to John Blair himself are classified as the Blair school of carving.
A "classic" Blair decoy consists of two pieces of hollowed cedar forming an oval shaped body. These plump birds have rounded bottoms and a hump on their backs near the tail. A neck shelf supports each head which is accented with tack eyes. Blair attached each rectangular lead weight with twelve nails. "Second class" decoys mimic all these characteristics, but have flat bottoms. "Third class" decoys are solid, but feature the other original characteristics. Like his carving, Blair's painting is questionable. Nobody can figure out who did the painting, but the paint jobs gracing Blair decoys exhibit extensive detail and careful blends of color that glve the bird a realistic appearance. Blair stored each of his decoys in its own canvas bag to prevent wear and tear. Though John Blair, Sr. did not carve mass quantities of decoys, his birds made up the bulk of A. Mercer Biddle, Sr.'s rig and were used by Ulysses S. Grant on his hunting trips.