Introducing Charlie Chisels

By Chris Dempsey, LM64

This early hobo artist's carvings are surprisingly eye appealing given their crudeness. As the nickname "Charlie Chisels" indicates, a large portion of each carving was created with the use of a chisel. The first carving shown was sold to OHNS member Mel Neff for $165 plus buyer's premium in the 2007 OHNS auction (lot 47). The second carving sold in the 2008 OHNS auction (lot 12) for $247.50 plus buyer's premium. The last carving I was lucky enough to win online for $310 in March of 2012.

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The carving characteristics for "Charlie Chisels" are as follows:

  1. Date and Liberty are completely removed.
  2. Surfaces were smoothed prior to carving.
  3. Collar is comprised of a thin strip(s) created with hammer and chisel. Two examples have a triangular fold.
  4. Derby, brim, bow, and ear are carved with a chisel.
  5. Carvings exhibit a thick "C" shaped ear with a hollowed out center that sits low on the head.
  6. Hair, beard, eyebrow, and eye are punched using a pointed punch or knife tip.
  7. Slightly altered profile in front of eye.