LEONARD KARR COLLECTION, 1930-1995
(3 cu. ft.: (.5) DB, 5 (.5) Flt B, 1 Flt B, 2 F/O, 5 O/S Fldrs)
by: Charles Hargrove, August 2001
Leonard Karr was born on December 25, 1913 in Yakima, Washington to John Ross Karr and Teakla Kohlman. He attended the Yakima district schools and graduated in 1931. Prior to World War II, Karr worked as a sign painter and designer for several sign companies in the Yakima area. During World War II Karr served in the military as a sign painter for the 216th Unit of the Army Air Force at Wendover Field in Utah. After the war he returned to private life as a sign painter and designer for the Sun Beem Neon Sign Company. He later moved to the Valley Neon Service and then in 1955 joined Dwinnel's Neon Central where he worked until his retirement in 1983. Mr. Karr was an ardent and successful fisherman and hunter, especially of geese. Karr designed a number of implements to assist in his hunting, including decoys, pit covers and a stake hole punch. In 1933 Karr designed and built his own kayak for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. In 1954 he patented his 2-dimensional goose decoys (U.S. Pat # 2,746,196) and marketed them to hunters in the American Northwest. Karr did not renew his patent after its initial term and after it expired his basic design was pirated. Karr died on March 13, 1995.
Scope & Content
The bulk of the collection consists of photographs illustrating in vivid detail Karr's hunting and fishing interests. The collection is approximately 3 cu. ft. and contains photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, albums and drawings and is divided into two series: Series 1: Sporting Materials and Series 2: Personal Materials. The collection is rich in photographic documentation of goose hunting and related sporting activities in the Pacific Northwest.
Series 1: SPORTING MATERIALS, 1930-1991
The first series illustrates Karr's interests in hunting and fishing and consists of photographs, decoy designs, correspondence, scrapbooks and albums. The photos are of particular value in documenting goose hunting and other outdoor activities in the Pacific Northwest. Also of interest to researchers are Karr's designs of his decoys, kayak, and a man-sized, goose-shaped hunting blind known as "Supergoose". Although most of the photographs are unidentified the bulk of the material seems to date from the mid 1930s through the early 1970s.
Series 2: PERSONAL MATERIALS, 1930-1995
This series contains photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, albums, designs and drawing relating to Leonard Karr's personal life and his work as a sign painter. Of interest to students of advertising are the photos and scrapbooks that Karr maintained of signs that he worked on or found noteworthy. The majority of photographs are undated and unidentified, but presumably depict his family and friends.
The Division of Cultural History at NMAH houses artifacts relating to Leonard Karr and his hunting activities in the Northwest, including a kayak with paddle and car roof rack, three flat metal decoys and stakes, and a three-dimensional, hollow, pit cover used for concealment during hunting.
The materials in the collection were donated by Rayne Beaudoin, a hunting companion of Leonard Karr. Mr. Karr gave his self-designed hunting kayak to Mr. Beaudoin in 1990. The accompanying papers, photos and decoys were given to Mr. Beaudoin by Dorothy Karr, Mr. Karr's widow, following his death in 1995. After searching for several years for the appropriate repository for the items and documents Mr. Beau contacted Ellen Roney Hughes of the Division of Cultural History. The items were donated to the National Museum of American History in February 2001.