Category Archives: Native American/Indian

Navajo Weaver Bookends


Photo of Navajo Weaver Postcard

Frasher Foto Postcard, 1932. Navajo Weaver in front of an Upright Loom . A black and white photo postcard of the same family group is located in the FRASHER FOTO POSTCARD COLLECTION at the Pomona, CA Public Library.

In the early days of tourism in the American Southwest, Navajo Weavers would set up their looms near the major roads through the reservation. Donna remembers these weaver tableaus from her family travels through New Mexico and Arizona in the 1940s and 50s. In those days, there were still buckboard wagons and horses tied near the weaver’s camp. Trading posts such as Hubbell’s (now a National Historic Site), and the Fred Harvey Company (Santa Fe Railroad) employed weavers to demonstrate to prospective customers the skill and effort required to produce a Navajo Rug.

Photo of Chalkware Bookends of a Navajo Weaver

Chalkware.  Height 5.5 inches.  Unmarked.  Probably from the first half of the twentieth century. Note the vertical warp strings and how they are wrapped around a log at the bottom.

These fairly crude chalkware bookends are very rare; this is the only pair we’ve seen that show a Navajo weaving at the iconic upright loom. We value the pair for their rarity and for the association it has to our interest in the art and craft of the Indians of the Southwest.

The history of the Navajo Rug has many twists and turns. Domesticated sheep came with the Spanish colonization of the Americas. This was followed by the weaving of wool into wearing blankets and later the familiar floor rugs. The tradition has continued to the present day.  Navajo weavings are prized by collectors and interior designers today, and some Navajo  blankets from the nineteenth century are valued in six figures.

Photo at Toadlena Trading Post.

The Bookend Collector helping to shave a Navajo Rug at the Toadlena Trading Post in 2011.

If you are traveling in New Mexico take time to visit Toadlena Trading Post, where the tradition of quality weaving is maintained.


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Indian Emissary Bookends

Native American Chiefs and Leaders visited Washington D.C. and Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries so it was not remarkable in those days to see an Indian in European-style clothing.  But an Indian in tailored jacket on a bookend is very unusual.  This pair of bookends shows an Indian in a jacket and cravat, the only such bookends we have ever seen, and we entitle the pair Indian Emissary.  The pair is six inches tall, electroformed bronze, unmarked, and attributed to Armor Bronze, circa 1915.The bookends are a unique addition to any collection and a great conversation piece as well.

Photo of Indian Bookends

Indian Emissary wears a European style jacket and cravat but his feather and hairstyle reflects his Native American Identity. 6” tall, electroformed bronze.


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Indian Demise Bookends

This pair of Indian bookends tells a story.  The near-naked, muscular warrior is in a pose of fierce resistance, but his club and his quiver of arrows are on the ground, useless.  His woman  is fleeing with their infant child.  We can imagine they are under attack from white men.

Photo of Indian Bookends

Indian Demise, Gray Metal, Height 6.25 inches, Weight 5.5 pounds per pair, Unmarked, Very detailed casting.

The subject matter is very familiar.  Indians and european settlers destroy each other in song and story,  but these are the most graphic bookends that illustrate the conflict.


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Seminole Indian Bookends

These are rare bookends depicting a seated Seminole Indian Woman of the 1920s, apparently sewing or stringing beads.  The sculptor was S. Plasikowski.  The casting company is not known.  Seminole Bookends are listed in both the 1934 & 1954 Catalogs of Copyright Entries for Works of Art  as the work of Serena Plasikowski Denslow.

Photo of Seminole Indian Bookends

Seminole Indian Bookends. 4.5 inches in height. Gray Metal.

Photo of Seminole Bookends Legend

Paper Legend on base of Seminole Bookends

The Seminole Indians in Florida are not the original prehistoric group of Indians from that region.  The Seminoles originated from a mix of local Indians, immigrant Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama, and runaway black slaves, and received their name in the 1770s.  As early as 1880 the Seminoles obtained hand-operated sewing machines and used them to make their own clothing, utilizing a series of multi-colored strips of cloth to create both a ruffled blouse and a long ruffled skirt.

Photo of Postcard showing Seminole Indian Women

Postcard of Seminole Indian Women in Traditional Garb at Tropical Hobbyland, Miami, FL

This fashion of contrasting colors was begun prior to 1920, according to David M. Blackard in his book, PATCHWORK & PALMETTOS, Seminole-Miccosukee Folk Art Since 1820, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, 1990.  The form evolved into the now familiar characteristic patchwork of blocks or bars of alternating colors and incorporating a sawtooth design through the 1920s and 30s.   Today we see patchwork with rickrack clothing on the handicrafted dolls sold in Florida as souvenirs.

Seminole Indian Souvenirs

Seminole Crafts. Sweetgrass basket with palmetto doll head. Palmetto Doll with ruffled cape and skirt


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Tall and Short Totem Pole Bookends

Photo of Tall and Short Totem Pole Bookends

Tall Totem Pole Bookends, made of iron, each bookend weighs 4 pounds. Small Totem Pole Bookends, made of bronze, each bookend weighs 0.5 pounds.

Totem poles erected by the Indians of the Northwest coast may reach 60 feet or even higher so it is appropriate for totem pole bookends to be tall.  This pair is 11.5 inches high, the tallest totem pole bookends we have seen.   Starting from the top, we see eagle, raven, and an anthropomorphic figure.  The bookends are unmarked, but attributed to Littco, circa 1920.

Some totem poles are short and so are some totem pole bookends.  The smallest bookends of this type that we have seen, 5.5 inches in height and with a shaft only 5/8 inches wide, are shown here as well.   Starting from the top, we see Raven, Eagle, Wolf and lowermost, Bear.  The bookends are marked Art Brass, but we do not know any foundry of this name, so the foundry remains unknown.  They date probably from about 1920, and were suitable for small books or periodicals of that era.

Photo of Totem Park, Wrangell, AK

Totem Poles in Totem Park, Wrangell, AK. 2003


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Northwest Coast Bookends

There are a number of bookends that show Northwest-Coast Indian totem figures or alternatively totem poles. Totems were animals or anthropomorphic beings that each Indian clan adopted for their own.  Each totem was endowed with mythical powers, and each totem could theoretically help its clan, but the clan treated them more like mascots or heraldic crests than Gods.  They were shown on house poles or implements and also on poles made from red cedar logs.

The most spectacular pair of totem-figure bookends were those produced by Marion Bronze which showed a polychrome bear sitting with tongue protruding, a recognizable pose for the bear totem.

Photo of Marion Bronze Bear Totem Bookends

Bear Totem bookends from Marion Bronze.  Electroformed bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Inscribed with the conjoined MB shopmark. Circa 1960.

Bears frequently appear in the Totem Poles of the Northwest Coast Tribes.  There is a Haida/Tshimshian   story which tells of an Indian woman who mated with a bear and produced half-bear half-human sons.  Bears and humans could transform into each other so this was no problem.  An argillite carving from the Northwest Coast Indians is shown here to give another view of legendary bears.

Photo of Bear Mother Argillite Carving

Bear mother legend.  The woman is shown upside down giving birth to a bear.  Two bears stand by.  Argillite. Height 6.5 inches.  Nineteenth century.

There are a number of bookends of Northwest Coast totem poles.  Here is a pair that shows an eagle sitting above a bear. The geometric aspects identify it as Art deco.  Circa 1930.  Inscribed Cygnus Inc., Edmonds, Washington.


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Electroformed Bronze Bookends

In the past, electroformed bronze bookends have been called bronze clad or weighted bronze, but electroformed bronze is a much better term because it specifically identifies these bookends by the technique which produced them.

Photo of Electroformed bronze Indian bookends

Electroformed bronze “Mounted Indian.” Height 9″. Attributed to Armor Bronze. Note the scar on the underside of the base.

Electroformed bookends are made in several steps:

First, a sculptor produces a  full-sized model of a bookend which is then replicated in plaster or similar material,  The plaster form is then coated with carbon or other suitable material so that it can function as a cathode in an electrolytic bath.  The coated form is then suspended in a bath containing tin and copper ions and an electric current is passed through the bath.  Copper mixed with tin (bronze) is deposited on the model in a uniform coating.  At this point the model has become bronze plated, this is the same procedure for silver plating, chrome plating, or any other metal-plating operation. .

Metal-plating conventionally produces a very thin coating on an object.  For example, most Jennings Brothers bookends are made of gray metal and given a thin electroplated bronze surface. The gray metal provides the structural strength for the bookend; the bronze gives the surface.

The bookends that should be called electroformed are not given a thin coating which is  simply a surface.  These bookends are given a thick layer of bronze and this layer provides structural strength for the bookends.  Thus, the bookends are proper bronze and not simply bronze plated.  Each electroformed bookend usually shows a scar on the bolttom where a hook was placed in order to suspend the plaster form bookend in a bath.


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