Henry C. Gibson (1848–1930)

Henry C. Gibson is credited with developing a box-style turkey call that eventually was called the Gibson Turkey Box. This unique call had the distinction of being the first box-style turkey call patented in the United States. The box and attached lids made realistic calls, and the device was easy to carry.

Henry Gibson was born near Dardanelle (Yell County) on September 18, 1848. Little is known about his family and childhood. Gibson worked in a small drug store in Dardanelle when he was around twenty years old.

On December 18, 1870, Gibson married Alice Hawkins. Together they raised three daughters and one son. Following his wife’s death, Gibson married Lettie Dodge on October 14, 1891, and they had one daughter. He worked as a farmer and manager of the Western Arkansas Hedge and Wire Fence Company of Dardanelle.

Gibson was granted patent number 574,534 on January 5, 1897, for a box-style turkey call. Half of the patent was awarded to John Boddie of Arkadelphia (Clark County). According to author Howard Harlan, Boddie’s St. Louis ties may have been used to help distribute the Gibson Box. Some authorities speculate that Boddie may have been Gibson’s financial backer

The turkey call was produced for decades, with advertisements appearing as late as 1921. Gibson’s original patent did not list specific dimensions, but a 1900 advertisement says the box consisted of a one-piece box, ten inches long, one-and-a-quarter inches wide, and two-and-a-half inches deep. The striker (lid) was attached to the box by a pivot screw that allowed the lid to be scraped across the main box. This basic design is still used by modern turkey hunters and turkey-call makers.

Gibson died on May 4, 1930, and is buried at Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock (Pulaski County).

For additional information:
Harlan, Howard L. Turkey Calls, an Enduring American Folk Art. Nashville: Harlan-Anderson Press, 1994.

Mickel, Earl. Turkey Callmakers Past and Present: The Rest of the Best. E. Mickel, 1999.

Ron McCafferty
Little Rock, Arkansas


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