Figure of a Chesapeake Waterman

Figure of a Chesapeake Waterman

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How many of us love what we do for a living so much that we spend our retirement creating objects that reflect and celebrate our work? For some retired Chesapeake Bay watermen, life ashore is more challenging than setting out in a boat every day before dawn, in all kinds of weather, to harvest what's in season. After a lifetime of hard, physical labor as independent men who "follow the water," the sameness and idleness of shore life can be a strain. They miss their boats, the water, and the actual work--the performance of occupational skills--that shaped and defined their lives. Such was the context within which Waverly Evans, a waterman from Smith Island, in the lower Chesapeake, began producing wooden figures in this way.
The figure in the Smithsonian collection depicts a waterman standing on the bow of a skiff with a crab net held aloft. It shows a netter who has scooped up a "doubler," the local name for a pair of mating crabs. With a flick of the wrist, the netter flips the pair into the air to separate them, a necessary maneuver for marketing the catch. These deft motions are second nature to watermen and are what Waverly Evans celebrates in his wooden works of occupationally inspired folk art.
Currently not on view
Object Name
figure, wooden
figure of a crabber, wooden
date made
Evans, Waverly
Evans, Waverly
place made
United States: Maryland, Smith Island
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 32.5 cm x 72 cm x 2 cm; 12 13/16 in x 28 3/8 in x 13/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Maritime
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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