Here are some colorful stagecoaches. Stagecoaches provided commercial transportation until the early 20th century. The advent of railroads diminished the long-haul stagecoach business but until the motor coach or bus took over in the 1910s and 20s the stagecoach continued to connect hamlets to the railroads with short-haul routes. These bookend coaches resemble several models made by the Concord Coach Company of New Hampshire. There are many bookend pairs that show stagecoaches so these are not unique in that respect. Several coaches appear in Chuck DeCosta’s Antique Bookend Collection site. Aside from making an attractive appearance, the importance of this pair is found on the reverse side. The bookends are marked “W H Howell Co. Copyright ’06.”
If the date were written 1906, we might mistake it for a foundry serial number, but ’06 tells us that The Howell company was producing bookends at that early time, and it makes the Howell company one of the earliest bookend foundries in the United States. Most Howell bookends are copper-flashed iron with Western themes, although we know one with a depiction of a leaping gazelle. These stagecoach bookends are the only polychrome Howells we have seen.
The W.H.Howell Co. Foundry was formed in 1867 in Geneva, Illinois, along the Fox River. It manufactured a variety of cast iron products such as fluting irons, sad irons, and doorstops. The need for sad irons dropped with the advent of electric irons and the company moved into the production of metal furniture, exhibiting tubular furniture featured at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The company, later known as the Howell Company and re-located upstream on the Fox River at St. Charles, IL., closed in 1980. (Information from the St. Charles Public Library and “The Past and Present of Kane Co. Ill.” published 1878).
As an aside, the Kane County Flea Market just outside of Geneva is lots of fun! We’ve visited it a number of times and have never failed to buy something.