James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) is a famous American sculptor who designed the Indian Head or Buffalo nickel for the U.S. mint in 1913. This coin was widely circulated until it was discontinued after 1938. As far as we know, the Buffalo nickel is pictured on only one set of bookends, and it has the Bison on one member of the pair and the Indian head on the other. The pair shown here is gray metal and is unmarked except for the date of 1938 on the face. The bookend sculptor apparently knew the final coin date so the bookends were probably issued shortly after that time. We do not know the foundry, but we hope a collector will send us this information.
In 1915 Fraser unveiled his doleful statue “End of the Trail”. This statue, which commemorated the final and utter defeat of American Indians, now called Native Americans, became a universally recognized image in its day, and inspired a flood of bookends by a variety of foundries. Perhaps the most decorative pair, by Ronson, circa 1920, in gray metal and painted in red, green and gold, is shown here. The original plaster sculpture that evoked so many copies was first displayed at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. This same statue now greets visitors to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
We do not like the sad sentiment. We refer to the End of the Trail bookends as “The Dying Indian”, and do not display them in our collection.