Dr. Susan Van Scoy, professor of Art History at St. Joseph’s College, is releasing her first solo authored book, The Big Duck And Eastern Long Island’s Duck Farming Industry, with the focus on the history of the beloved and iconic white Long Island duck structure that just about anyone on Long Island knows.
As the author of two prior texts on artists Jim Dine and Grant Wood, respectively, Dr. Van Scoy explained her interest in writing about this subject as simply, “I wrote this for a very specific audience, as there are no adult books regarding the history of the Big Duck – it has never been done before. I grew up on Long Island and that structure is directly linked to my childhood memories. I have three children of my own, but I wanted to focus on an adult book about the duck.” The Big Duck – a duck-shaped building conceived by Martin Maurer in 1931 – was used to sell poultry and duck eggs, and inspired the term “duck” architecture.
Dr. Van Scoy continued, “My specialty is the history of photography and site specific art. The Big Duck has been moved and returned and you see so many people taking selfies with it but they have no idea of its integral history to our area and no history has been done since 1949 on duck farming. The historic photographic images and pictures were becoming more and more difficult to acquire as farms closed, farmers moved or passed away, and with the natural age and deterioration of existing photos. I did not write a comprehensive history of duck farming on Long Island, but included some salient information told through the photographs.”
Duck farming was a huge industry on Long Island for many years, according to Dr. Van Scoy’s research, “The first duck farm, Atlantic Duck Farm, opened on Long Island in Speonk in 1858; however, raising ducks did not take hold until the Pekin duck breed arrived from China in 1873. Due to Long Island’s waterfront properties, temperate climate, and sandy soil, along with modernization of the farming industry, duck production grew rapidly, increasing from approximately 200,000 ducks per year in 1897 to two million ducks in 1922. By 1940, nearly 100 duck farms were concentrated mainly between Eastport and Riverhead.” Unfortunately, there is now only one remaining duck farm on Long Island – Corwin’s Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue.
The Big Duck and Eastern Long Island’s Duck Farming Industry is being released by Arcadia Publishing on March 25.
The Flanders Village Historical Society and Friends of The Big Duck are hosting the first author talk and book signing for Dr. Van Scoy at the David W. Crohan Community Center (655 Flanders Road, Flanders) on Tuesday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m. Books will be available for purchase, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Friends of The Big Duck. Refreshments will also be served. The Big Duck and Eastern Long Island’s Duck Farming Industry is also available at Arcadiapublishing.com.