Vintage Call Photo Gallery 1

Photographs and call information provided by Bob Christensen
Author of Duck Calls of Illinois 1863-1963

Charles Perdew (1874-1963), Henry Illinois. This is a typical example of Perdew's carved and painted classic call. These calls were made from the 1920s until the early 1960s. The vast majority of these calls have three carved and painted mallards on the barrel as well as the initials or name of the owner. They are metal-reed calls made from mahogany with a cedar stopper. Charles Perdew is considered to be Illinois premier waterfowl folk artist. His decoys are also highly treasured. This photo shows the other side of Perdew's carved and painted duck call. These calls had mouthpieces made from red, green, or yellow Bakelite-type plastic. Charles Perdew. This is the famous carved and checkered walnut duck call that Perdew made for the VL&A store in Chicago beginning sometime in the 1920s. When sold through the store it was inscribed with the "VL&A" initials. Charlie also sold these calls out of his shop in Henry, Illinois with whatever initials the purchaser requested. Some examples have no initials at all.
Charles Grubbs (1848-1933), Senachwine Lake, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Houston, Texas. Grubbs claimed to have made the first commercial duck call in 1868. This is in dispute with F. A. Allen who claimed to be selling calls since 1863 but his advertising first appeared in 1880. Grubbs's advertising can be traced back to the 1892 Montgeomery Ward catalog. Grubbs's calls are the first documented metal-reed calls of what is now known as Glodo or Reelfoot Lake style. Grubbs had an extensive career in waterfowling ranging from managing the famous Undercliff Hotel on Lake Senachwine on the Illinois River, to working at VL&A, to making decoys and calls in Mississippi and Texas. This is a very early cedar example of his Percfection call. Charles Grubbs. This is an example of what is referred to as Grubbs's Standard Duck Call. This is the most commonly found form of his duck calls. Charles Grubbs. This call is considered to be the earliest form of a Grubbs duck call and is called the Grubbs Original Illinois River duck call. Charles Grubbs was one of the most prolific of the early call makers.
This is Grubbs's "Improved Illinois River Duck Call". Chronologically it falls between his "Illinois River Duck Call" and his "Perfection Duck Call. The Improved Illinois River Duck Call is made from cedar and was the first Grubbs call to be nationally advertised (Montgomery Ward catalog, 1892). Charles Quimby (1875-1940) of Spring Valley, Illinois was a touring sharp shooter for a well known gun and powder company. He also manufactured duck skiffs used on the Illinois River. In addition he made metal-reed duck and crow calls from locally grown cedar. His calls date to the 1920s and earlier and are extremely hard to come by. Charles Ditto (1865-1935) of Keithsburg, Illinois was another of the early call makers. He made hard rubber reed duck and crow calls using a molded rubber toneboard. Most of his calls used a metal sleeve inside their barrels and a metal-tube insert to hold the toneboard and reed. Ditto was, among other things, a champion trapshooter, farmer, guide, and hunting camp manager. Ditto's calls were widely distributed as they were available in many national hardware and sporting goods catalogs. This is an example of Ditto's early flared-stopper Eureka duck calls.
Fred A. Allen (1838-1912) of Monmouth, Illinois is generally given credit as the first commercial maker of a single-toneboard, or modern, duck call. Allen was a pioneer in the waterfowling field making calls, decoys, and bow-facing oars in the 19th century. After starting with an all-metal call, he switched to a wooden barrel in 1892. This example has his desirable deep lanyard groove design. Although Allen died in 1912, his wife continued to manufacture and sell his calls into the 1940s . Unknown maker. Horn-belled tongue pincher ca. 1870. This archaic duck call form was patented in 1870 by Elam Fisher of Detroit. Later tongue pinchers were manufactured with metal bells. These calls were made with a metal reed placed between two toneboards. Morgan Leader, St. Louis, Missouri. The maker or makers of these calls remain a mystery. Advertising for these calls appeared in St. Louis catalogs for over 20 years dating back to the early 1900s. The elegant call shown here was made from hedge. Other examples were made from walnut and rosewood.
Murray Worthern (1878-1949) Tobias and Murphysboro, Illinois. Worthern was one of the Roseberry school call makers from southern Illinois. Tom Roseberry taught Worthern how to make calls around 1936. Worthern made these Glodo-style, checkered calls until shortly before his death. This call was made from the leg of a World War II army cot. John "Newt" Rule (1870-1949) of Beardstown, Illinois ran a hunting camp along the Illinois River. He also operated a traveling shooting gallery that he would take to fairs and festivals. He made decoys and metal-reed duck calls. Rule made hundreds of calls from about 1910 until 1940. His calls had step-milled stoppers as can be seen in the walnut call in this photo. Richard Byrnes (1865-ca. 1927) of Pekin, Illinois made brass-banded hard rubber calls possibly as early as the 1880s. His metal-reed calls influenced many Pekin area call makers. Byrnes was a bartender by trade. Many examples of his calls have cut-off barrels because early hard rubber and gutta-percha tended to crack easily.
George "Skippy" Barto (1880-1959) Fairmont, Illinois. Charlie Perdew taught Barto how to make duck calls. Barto made a plain walnut duck call and a deluxe banded cedar duck call. Both of these used metal reeds. He was also a noted decoy maker and carved birds of all kinds including shorebirds and songbirds. This is one of his deluxe banded cedar calls. Slinn Brothers: Harry (1847-1917), James (1857-?), John (1863-1945), Albert (1867-1922) Chilicothe, Illinois. The Slinn Brothers made one of the earliest documented duck calls (1883). The barrels were made from gutta-percha with molded ducks, rabbits, and shorebirds. Stoppers were fashioned from either gutta-percha or wood. The gutta-percha tended to developed cracks and many surviving examples have cut-off barrels. All Slinn Brothers calls have metal reeds. Unknown maker. Squawker, late 1800s. This now obsolete form of duck call is similar in construction to the Louisiana type call except that no retaining tube is used. Instructions for making a squawker call can be found in Joseph W. Long's 1874 book, American Wild-Fowl Shooting. This is the earliest known written documentation of a modern duck call.
Tom Roseberry (1872-1961) of Murphysboro was the first in the famous southern Illinois family line of call makers. He was a coal miner who started making calls around 1900. He influenced many of the southern Illinois call makers who followed him. His early calls, such as the one shown here, were handcrafted entirely from walnut. He later switched to cedar stoppers. Some had heart-shaped panels and all are step-drilled with metal reeds. Tom Turpin (1872-1957) of Memphis, Tennessee was one of the seminal figures in the development of the metal-reed call. He spent years researching and refining every nuance of calling ducks and his calls set the standard for all metal-reed makers of his era. Turpin was heavily influenced by Victor Glodo but experimented with numerous materials and construction techniques. He also made crow and turkey calls. In addition he wrote about calls and call making for outdoor magazines. The duck call example shown here is his most frequently found call. It has 3 ducks stamped at equal intervals around the barrel. Lawrence Larson, Sr. (1888-1947) and Lawrence Larson, Jr. (1925-1976) Oak Park, Illinois. Larry Larson, Sr. was an outdoorsman, conservationist, and full-time duck call manufacturer. He made and sold thousands of his metal-reed Trutone calls through major sporting goods stores and catalogs. He also traveled the outdoor show and festival circuit as well as giving duck calling seminars. He made duck, crow, and, for a short time, goose calls. His duck calls came in 3 grades, Standard, Red Label, and Blue Label. Although he used many different kinds of wood, the overwhelming majority of calls in collections today have walnut barrels with either walnut or maple stoppers. Larson's Blue Label calls were made with premium grade barrel wood. A few early calls had decals but he switched to imprinting, "TRUTONE, OAK PARK, ILL" on the call barrels. Larry, Sr.'s son took over the business when Larry, Sr. died in 1947 but Larry, Jr. only applied finish and tuned the calls that his father had already made. The call shown here is an outstanding example of Larson's highest grade, Blue Label call.
Valentine "Val" Leonard (1902-1965) of Bureau, Illinois worked for the railroad and also was a pusher for the Greenwing Hunting Club in Bureau. A tournament trap shooter and expert fly fisherman, Leonard made duck calls and decorative ducks. His duck calls, which he made from the early 1920s through the 1950s, are elegantly simple in design. Most are banded and some have an internal metal sleeve. While some of his early calls had metal reeds, the ones in known collections today have plastic or hard rubber reeds. Most of his calls were made from walnut but a few have been found made from rosewood or, as in the example shown, are laminated. An additional few have small ducks inlaid in their barrels. Bill Clifford (1877-1958) of River Forest, Illinois made metal-reed calls from the late 1930s until the mid 1950s. Using his design expertise from his trade as a decorative tile setter, he created the most beautifully laminated calls of his time and set the standard in lamination to which all call makers aspire. This is an example of his brick and mortar style lamination. Cliffords calls and call racks are among the most highly sought after of all vintage waterfowl call collectibles.  
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