In 1975, to celebrate the upcoming bicentennial of the United States Declaration of Independence, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. decided to hold an art show called “Craft Multiples.”
The idea behind this show was to feature crafts that were reproduced over and over again. At the time America was declaring its independence in 1776, this was the way that people created goods.
Responding to the call for submissions to this show, Don Briddell produced two Mallard decorative decoys—a hen and a drake pictured below. Out of the approximate 13,500 entries, only 125 pieces were chosen and Don’s decoy pair was one of them.
The show was displayed in the Renwick Gallery, across the street from the White House. The Smithsonian purchased the pieces in the show for their permanent collection, but they also required artists to be willing to take at least six orders if anyone wanted to buy a “multiple” of the craftwork. In Don’s case, six people did, and so he made six more replications of this Mallard pair.
Another interesting outcome of these Mallards occurred a few years later when Don got a call from the private secretary of Vice President Mondale. She had seen the Mallards at the Vice Presidents’ house, which is located on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington DC. The Mallards in the Smithsonian collection had been selected to be the centerpiece of the Mondale’s dining room table.
The Smithsonian Institution only displays a small percentage
of its collection at any given time in their museums that line the National
Mall. When not on display pieces are stored carefully in the Institution’s archives.
The Smithsonian does loan pieces out to decorate public government buildings however,
such as the White House and the Vice President’s House. This is how they came
to be on Vice President Mondale’s dining room table.
The private secretary had liked them so much, that she ordered a pair for herself.