Folk Art Bird Tree, Attributed to Schtockschnitzler Simmons (Active 1885-1910). Berks County, Pennsylvania, circa 1900.

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Possibly sassafras and dogwood, with original painted decoration, height 15 inches

Stockschnitzler Simmons (active 1885-1910) was a late German immigrant who wandered on foot from farm to farm and tavern to tavern, a pack of canes on his back. Although his given name remains unknown, he had two nicknames, der alt (the old one) and der Stockschnitzler (the cane carver).  Simmons’ was a self taught artist whose most noted masterpieces are his bird trees. (ills. 1-4)  Their bases are usually square wooden blocks, into which he inserted a sassafras sapling. He then tied its branches until dry and finally cut them to a desirable length to form short, curved limbs. On each of these he placed a colorful bird, some of which are carved from the roots of dogwood trees to obtain their unusual flowing shapes Simmons has been described as a huge, ruddy faced high German, an extremely kind and gentle man. He sometimes gave his folk art carvings to farmers or tavern keepers, who offered him either drinks or hospitality as he roamed the rural areas surrounding Kutztown, Moselem Springs, and Hamburg in Berks County.

Examples of Simmons works may be found at the Winterthur Museum; the Henry Ford Museum; (and) the Historical Society of Berks County.

Quoted from Richard S. and Rosemarie B. Machmer, Just for Nice, Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Reading, PA, 1991), p. 76.

Other bird trees by Simmons that have been published include one given by Mrs. Henry Vaughan to the Peabody Essex Museum in 1946 illustrated in Dean Lahikainen, In The American Spirit: Folk Art From The Collections, Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA, 1994), no. 73, p. 115; and an example with seven birds on a turned base from the Alastair B. Martin collection illustrated in Adele Earnest, Folk Art in America, A Personal View (Exton, PA, 1984), p. 24.

Richard S. and Rosemarie B. Machmer, Just for Nice: Carving and Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania
(1991), frontispieces.

American Folk Art Gallery, New York
Mrs. Olive Beaupre Miller
Private collection

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