Adele Earnest


an authority on wildfowl decoys and other forms of folk sculpture, was the catalyst for the founding of the American Folk Art Museum (then the Museum of EarlyAmerican Folk Arts) in 1961. Born in Waltham, Massachusetts, she was a graduate of Wellesley College. After a stint as stage manager for Eva LaGalliene’sFourteenth Street Repertory theater in New York, she moved to Stony Point in nearby Rockland County and in 1948, with her business partner Cordelia Hamilton,established the Stony Point Folk Art Gallery. The gallery became well known for its collection of folk sculpture, especially decoys. In 1965 she published
The Art of the Decoy: American Bird Carving,
one of the first authoritative studies of this important tradition in folk sculpture.As a founding trustee of the American Folk Art Museum, Earnest spearheaded many of its early programs and contributed to its permanent collection. For much of its history, the museum was associated symbolically with the Archangel Gabriel weathervane (c. 1840), donated by Earnest in 1963. Among her other importantcontributions to the museum’s collection were a pair of wildfowl decoys (c. 1860), two mergansers from the hand of master carver Lothrop “Lott” T. Holmes (1824– 1899) of Kingston, Massachusetts.Earnest published her
Folk Art in America: A Personal View
in 1984. A personal memoir as well as a history of the field and of the American Folk Art Museum, ittraces her interest in folk art to Pennsylvania German country, where she resided as a young bride in the late 1920s. Earnest became associated with many notablescholars and collectors of American folk art, and maintained a wide-ranging correspondence on issues affecting the field. Her papers are in the library of the AmericanFolk Art Museum.
See also
American Folk Art Museum; Joel Barber;

Decoys, Wildfowl; Herbert W.Hemphill Jr.;

Lothrop T.Holmes; Sculpture, Folk; Weathervanes
Earnest, Adele.
Folk Art in America: A Personal View.
Exton, Pa., 1984