FREMONT — The brushy bottom lands along the Sandusky River comprised part of the playground of Bob Hines’ youth. So did the waterway itself, and the cluster of mature trees of Spiegel Grove, the sprawling estate of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hines, a nationally prominent wildlife artist, spent much of his youth here, fishing and hunting along the river and Lake Erie, and caring for a variety of animals in his backyard. He developed an affinity for all the Lord’s creatures, big and small, and a keen eye for what made each of them so unique.
Later, as a self-taught artist, Hines put the life in wildlife in his creations, including his brilliant depiction of five redhead ducks that was selected as the 1946 federal duck stamp. More than two million of the stamps were sold — a record number at the time.
Hines’ gift, his passion for conservation, and his strong ties to this area will be celebrated in a permanent gallery of his work that opens today at the visitor center at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 miles north of here.
The gallery also will provide the opportunity for Hines, who died in 1994, to finally step from the shadows of anonymity, because for most of his career he worked in government service.
“Here we have this wonderfully talented wildlife artist who spent a critical part of his development right here in this area, and unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know his work,” said Nancy Kleinhenz, communications manager at the Hayes Center, where a Hines exhibit was held earlier this year.
“Bob Hines was never a commercial success, because most of his work was done for government agencies, not for art galleries. He has remained a relative unknown outside of his specialty, and in a way that is sad, because he was a truly gifted individual.”
Hines, who was born in Columbus in 1912, moved to Fremont with his family in 1921 and later graduated from Ross High School. After holding jobs as a shipping clerk, cook, and an inspector, he became skilled in taxidermy through a correspondence course. He then applied his talents to painting and drawing, and his passion for wildlife made that his logical subject matter.
“He always put wildlife in the correct environment,” Kleinhenz said. “He knew exactly what kind of setting ducks and deer belonged in, and used a very fine accuracy with his work to be certain that every detail in each image was correct.”
The Ohio Division of Conservation and Natural Resources, which later became the ODNR of today, hired Hines in 1939 as its staff artist. While Hines flourished in this role, his work was recognized in the professional ranks when his drawing was chosen for the 1946 federal duck stamp.
Hines worked as an artist and illustrator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington D.C., serving under the renowned author Rachel Carson, who at the time was the editor of publications for the USFWS. Carson, best known for her 1962 book Silent Spring, which earned her the reputation as one of the founders of the contemporary environmental movement, commissioned Hines to illustrate her book The Edge of the Sea.
John Juriga, a New York pediatrician and a lifelong birder, put together a book on the incredible story of Hines’ life called Bob Hines: National Wildlife Artist. “He was involved in so many aspects of conservation history,” Juriga said. “There was just a story begging to be told.”
While working at the federal wildlife service, Hines was credited with nurturing the open competition that is still used today to determine the federal duck stamp design each year. He would manage the duck stamp contest for more than three decades
The duck stamp program grew out of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, passed during the Hoover Administration to acquire and protect wetlands and habitat for waterfowl. The law did not have a funding mechanism, however, until the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act of 1934 created what we know today as the federal duck stamp.
The original duck stamp in 1934 sold for $1, and today costs $15. The funds — some $750 million over the life of the program — have been used to acquire or lease more than six million acres of habitat suitable for migratory waterfowl.
Migratory bird hunters in every state must purchase a federal duck stamp each year, in addition to their hunting license, and the stamps are also very popular with philatelists. The stamps are sold through the U.S. Postal Service.
Hines’ knack for creating wildlife art and sketches that were scientifically accurate in every detail earned him the honor of designing the first stamp in the Wildlife Conservation Postage Stamp Series. He was also the only USFWS employee to hold the title of “National Wildlife Artist.”
“That was quite an honor, especially considering this is a man who had no formal training as an artist,” Kleinhenz said. “He was just a natural at ist.”
Hines, whose work included painting several large wildlife murals that formerly hung in the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, D.C., also wrote and/or illustrated many books on wildlife, including The Upland Game Hunters Bible, Bass Fishing in America, and the widely acclaimed Ducks At a Distance — a Waterfowl Identification Guide.”
The philatelic press in Great Britain named his 1957 whooping crane stamp as one of the 10 best stamps in the world that year. Since so much of his artwork was done while in government service, it is considered public domain and has been used in wildlife and conservation publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.
“His work is amazing, and we’re excited about the opening of this gallery because now more people will come to know Bob Hines, and learn about his commitment to wildlife and to conservation,” Kleinhenz said.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.