Jehu Camper started whittling when he was 8 and when he died in 1989 at age 91, he left a collection of more than 1,000 pieces of folk-art whittling.
The works, now among the holdings of the Delaware Agricultural Museum, depict rural life. Camper often constructed complete scenes, and made windmills to power some pieces - like one with a woman milking a cow whose arms move up and down. He also injected wit in his work: he fashioned an outhouse with an adjustable seat, once explaining "People come in different sizes, you know.""It's folk art. Exaggerated detail with humor mixed in," said curator Mary A. Kopko of the Delaware museum. The Smithsonian Institution, which had displayed Camper's works, wanted the collection. But Camper wanted it to stay in the state, and his wife donated it to the state museum - they even got the turquoise rocking chair he sat in while he whittled.
Many Delaware people saw the collection when Camper and his wife traveled around the state, making presentations at schools. "I don't think we missed a school," said Mrs. Camper, 92, who lives in Harrington. "But every place we went they were very much impressed with it. There are people who make polished things, but his were a little on the crude side.
"Have you ever seen anything whittled out of a piece of wood with a penknife? That's what I mean by crude. They were real."