Author Archives: Bookend Collector

Foundries that Changed Bookend Styles

States began mandating universal elementary school attendance in the late nineteenth century and Americans became literate. At about the same time, the cost of books began to decline due to technological advances. Less affluent Americans could now buy books to read and display as an indicator of their refinement. As home libraries grew so did the need for bookends.  Wealthy people with libraries and fancy shelving could hold up their books with a single bronze bust or statue.  A family with a modest income could purchase small shelves (book slides) for their fireplace mantles or chest tops.  Even better were 2 pieces that could hold up just one book or a expanding library.   Bookends began appearing as gifts or as decor around 1900 to meet a growing market.

Across America, but principally in the north east, foundries began producing bookends.  Most bookends were  made through sand casting (see our 2012 book for descriptions of casting methods), and bookends were primarily of the same “L” shaped genre.  Foundries utilized topical subjects and artists to decorate these bookends and to entice buyers. 

Three foundries will be given special mention here because they made novel contributions to bookend design or they were especially favored by the public.

KBW. “Admiration”. 9 inches. Electroform Bronze. 1914.

Kathodian Bronze Works (KBW) was active in New York City from about 1900 to about 1916.  They produced  bronze BOOK ROCKS (bookends), generally in Victorian style, by the electroform method, usually marked KBW or ARTBRONZ. Each bookend was clearly a work of art and pleasing to see, but this foundry did not stand out for artistic conception alone. As can be seen in the advertisement below, KBW Book Rocks were carried in fashionable stores all across the United States and its territories, from Boston to Hawaii.   In fact, Gustave Stickley, icon of the early Arts and Crafts movement in America, chose to retail KBW Book Rocks in his New York City furniture shop, The Craftsman.  The Stickley shop “NEW YORK, Gustave Stickley, The Craftsman”,  is listed at the top right among the “List of Exclusive Agencies” in the advertisement shown below.  Today KBW bookends are deservedly desirable.

Photo of KBW Advertisement

The Literary Digest for November 14, 1914

The J B Hirsch Foundry, established in 1907 and active until recently, gave us bookends with celluloid parts.  Celluloid parts mimicked the ivory parts that were used in high-end sculptures. and lent panache to bookends.  Celluloid, also referred to as Ivorine, is often denigrated now because it lacks the qualities of ivory, but all plastics were new and desirable in the early thirties.  Bakelite, for example, was used for jewelery. Best of all, bookends with celluloid parts could be mass produced.

J.B. Hirsch Bird. 6″ Gray Metal with celluloid beak and bakelite base. Circa 1932.

The Frankart company was founded by the artist Arthur Frankenberg in 1921.  The company produced a number of metal items, among which were bookends featuring young ladies of  outstanding appearance.  Prior to Frankart, ladies in artwork were generally modeled in Victorian style  with curvaceous bodies, frequently nude but with some device to avoid obscenity. For example, on the KBW “Admiration” bookends shown above, a watching frog imbues the sculpture with the beauty of nature.   Frankart ladies, by contrast, were slender, elfin nudes, cute, graceful,  and very well-received by the public, yet even here a frog is part of the depiction.  Today, these Frankart bookends are considered for their ART DECO appeal and sell for high prices.   Frankenberg left the company in 1930 and thereafter, Frankart bookends were frequently made from low quality pot metal which has steadily deteriorated since that time. Buyer beware.

Nude and Frog. 10.25″ gray metal. Inscription: Frankart Inc. and 1922 with a copyright symbol.


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Cow with Bell and Character, Dodge Inc.

Caricature  Cow: Height 6 in., Grey metal, Dodge Inc., paper label. Circa 1948.

This Cow is an udderly whimsical bookend.  She is giving you the side-eye look and appears ready to whip you with her fulsome tail or to sneak a quick kick with her oversized hoof if you try to approach those prominent milk teats.  

Cows and cows with bells have been memorialized in the news, fiction, comic, films, and advertising.  The American Dairy Association provides a list of famous cows.  Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, whose legend supposes she kicked over a lantern and started the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Pauline Wayne, the last cow to live at the White House and who is said to have provide President Taft and family with 9 gallons of milk a day and 25 lbs of butter a week.  Minnie Moo at Disneyland.  None of the 14 Cows listed completely fit a description of our bookend.  She most closely resembles Clarabelle, the Disney cow that was Minnie Mouse’s mostly silent sidekick.  Clarabelle was created in 1928, she wore a bell, she had an exaggerated nose, big ears, sometimes wore a hat or bow, and had a twitchy tail.  However, she was skinny.  

Check out this Paul Terry’s Barker Bill, animated cartoon of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow by clicking here. 

The American Dairy List of FAMOUS COWS OF THE WORLD can be accessed by clicking here. 



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Hand Crafted Owl Bookends

ARTS & CRAFTS OWL:  Oak and copper, ht. 6.5 in. circa 1910. Natural light shows the dull patina of age on the copper

The Arts and Crafts art style grew up in the last half of the nineteenth century, in England,  largely through the  efforts of the brilliant artist, William Morris.  The industrial revolution was sweeping England at that time, and  household objects designed for mass production rather than artistic merit were being produced.  In protest, the new style advocated graceful, functional objects , hand-made by the artist.  This style reached America at the dawn of the last century and these bookends show it to us.

A shaped piece of sheet copper is fastened to the face of each bookend by ball-head pins around the margin.  There is an image of an owl which has been chased into the copper.  A strip of sheet copper is pinned around the curved margin of each bookend with the chased letter R, presumably the monogram of the artist.The bookend is quarter-sawn oak, a decorative wood of that era with a metal foot nailed to the base for support.  The chased sheet copper, the pins, the quarter -sawn oak, and the choice of an owl image, all indicate early handwork in the Arts and Crafts style.

ARTS & CRAFTS OWL:  Oak and copper, ht. 6.5 in circa 1910. Flash photo highlights the gleaming copper illustrating how it would have looked when new.

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Posted by on August 9, 2020 in Animals, Art Styles, Literary


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Adohr Dairy Bookend 1920s

Rare bronze bookend depicting, in low relief, the monument of a cow, a milkmaid and a child, that was recognized world-wide, in the 1920s, as an advertisement for the world’s largest Guernsey Dairy herd, Adohr Stock Farms, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California.  The cow is grazing.  The milkmaid, with long braids, a draped head-covering, and a dress with a laced bodice, holds a milk jug.  A young girl is looking up at her and holds up a cup for milk.  The child also has a head covering and holds a doll or toy in her right hand.  The base of the bookend sports the logo “ADOHR”.  The reverse of the bookends reads “ART-VERTISING CORP LOS ANGELES.”

ADOHR Dairy: Low-relief, Bronze. Height 5 7/8 inches. ART-VERTISING CORP LOS ANGELES.

One never knows what stories you will find when you research a vintage item.  The internet takes you through lots of interesting side-trips.  

If you grew up in Southern California in the middle of the twentieth century, you were familiar with ADOHR Farms advertising.  When we acquired this lovely single bookend of the company’s iconic Guernsey cow, attractive milkmaid and thirsty child, it was because of nostalgia. 

A quick google search brought up photos of a sculpture that had been commissioned in the 1920s and that stood in Tarzana (San Fernando Valley), CA until 1969 when it was relocated to Morningstar Headquarters in Tulare, CA.  It is listed in several ‘roadside attractions’ websites, such as this RoadsideArchitecture blog.

ADOHR Guernsey Cow Sculpture, Tulare. Courtesy of RoadsideArchitecture blog.

In at least one listing, the sculptor is identified as Michael J. Bingham.  We have not found any information regarding Mr. Bingham.

This bookend is not the only object we’ve seen produced by ART-VERTISING CORP LOS ANGELES.  However, again, we’ve not been able to easily track down more information about the company.  They did make both bronze and zinc alloy advertising items which come up for sale infrequently, such as the rare Los Angeles City Hall bank from 1928.  The company is represented in the Decorative Arts collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

The story of the dairy begins with the famous Rindge Ranch of Malibu.  In 1915, Rhoda Agatha Rindge, heiress, married Merritt Adamson, ranch foreman, also USC Law school grad and captain of the USC football team.  In 1916 Adamson established the Adohr (Rhoda spelled backwards) dairy business up the hill in the San Fernando Valley.  By the mid-1920’s it was the largest certified dairy in the world.  It was well-known for innovative and quality dairy production and for it’s marketing acumen and for it’s famous reddish-golden brown Guernseys.  Sometime in the 1920s the milkmaid and cow sculpture was commissioned for placement at the dairy headquarters. 

The Adamson House / Museum in Malibu built by Merritt and Rhoda Adamson is the quintessential Spanish Colonial Style home favored in California during the 1920s and 30s.  It is noted for the tile that was produced from local clays.  It is now administered by the California State Parks.  Check out this Bookend Collector post on a pair of Malibu Tile Bookends. 

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Posted by on June 5, 2020 in Art Styles


Knights in Shining Armor

“You see, he was going for the Holy Grail. The boys all took a flier at the Holy Grail now and then. It was a several years’ cruise. They always put in the long absence snooping around, in the most conscientious way, though none of them had any idea where the Holy Grail really was, and I don’t think any of them actually expected to find it, or would have known what to do with it if he had run across it.” Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Sir Galahad.   Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Inscription:  Sir Galahad.  Circa 1920.

Knights in armor were a popular subject for bookends in the early twentieth century.  They were prized as reflections of the Arts and Crafts ethos popularized by William Morris and Elbert Hubbard and for their romantic adventures.  Like today’s digitally-based adventure stories where knights and medieval times are often featured, the adventure literature of the late 1800s and early 1900s were rampant with tales of gallant knights.  Even Mark Twain employed a knight as the central character in A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT.  Later on, the movies of the 1920s and 30s made knights a popular theme.   Everyone must have known about knights then, as they do today.  There was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the search for the Holy Grail.  People knew that knights had fought in the Holy Land during the crusades.

The long-lived popularity of knights in the media: literature, movies and Sunday comics (remember Prince Valiant) is reflected in the large number of decorative bookends of knights to be found in antique and vintage markets.  Bookends of knights were fashioned in many types of metal, as well as other materials such as clay.  With a little searching one can find bookends of knights that bear the signature or mark of a known artist or sculptor such as Gregory Seymour Allen or John J. Ruhl.     

The rarest knight bookend pair we know is a knight kneeling between two small castles. His mantle and his shield show a red cross on a white background, the insignia of the Knights Templar.  This was a Christian military order which was active from about 1100 to 1300 CE.  Another Masonic pair from 1916 featuring Knights Templar, shows the Knights fighting in Jerusalem.

There are two pairs of bookends from Armor Bronze which were later copied by Marion Bronze, this pair of knights on horseback and a pair of Knights Kneeling (not pictured).

We know of more than 20 bookend versions of Knights.  Knights in armor, Knights on horseback jousting, Knights with a lady, Knights on a lonely quest.  Here are a few more examples for you to peruse.  The Marion Bronze pair (courtesy of Jane from Galena) of St. George slaying the Dragon is particularly interesting as it is a reproduction of a rare tile by the well-known Arts & Crafts tile master, Batchelder.


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1930s Chalkware Mexican Couple Bookends

Mexican Couple:  Chalk. Height 5.5 in. Unmarked.  circa 1930s.

The sombreros assure us that these are portrayals of Mexicans, but  the slanted eyes on the bookends suggest they were painted by an artist who had no familiarity with the peoples of Mexico.  

Our guess is that they were made in China or Japan for the carnival give-away market during the 1930s.  In the 1930s the Californio / Mexican Revival figures were very much a part of popular design and culture.  These bookends are colorful and represent the period of time between wars when Mexican culture was fancifully depicted.  The clothes are flowing, the man is in a tie similar to a Mariachi costume. The instrument looks like a guitar with a fiddle scroll.  The woman’s dress has a sweetheart neckline.  She wears the large earrings and necklace associated with Taxco artists and she holds a decorated pot.  

Fortunately, their sombreros are not pulled down over their faces like we frequently see  in images from the USA.


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MGM GRAND Lion Bookends

LEO the LION, MGM GRAND Hotel and Casino. Painted Chalk, 5 3/4 high, each weighs 2 lbs 10oz, made in Taiwan, copyright 1993.

This cartoon version of the MGM (film studio) logo, Leo the Lion, is from 1993.  The bookends depict the MGM GRAND Casino and Hotel entrance as it existed when the property opened on the Las Vegas Strip in 1993.  It was made of bronzed fiberglass and was 6 stories high.  The entrance was demolished and replaced in 1997.  It is said that some of the gambling public considered it unlucky to enter a casino through a lion’s mouth. 

The Lion emulates a deco appearance from the nineteen twenties, a genre of Art Deco now referred to as Zig Zag and composed of angled geometric figures.  Another animal in Zig Zag Deco is seen in our post DECO EAGLE, from February, 2018.

Paper Label on MGM GRAND HOTEL Lion bookends.


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CHASE Co. RING Bookends

RING (Hoops and Balls):  Satin Brass and Copper,  Height 5 inches.  Shopmark:  Chase centaur.  Sculptor: Walter Von Nessen, circa 1933.

In our 1996 book, BOOKEND REVUE, we called these bookends “Hoops & Balls”.  That was before we had access to the 1933 CHASE catalog.  Their proper name is “RING”. 

Photo from “THE CHASE ERA: 1933 and 1942 Catalogs of the Chase Brass & Copper Co. Schiffer, 2001. Donald Brian-Johnson, Leslie Pina

“RING (No. 17019): A striking ring design by Von Nessen.  In three combinations – satin brass and copper, English bronze and English copper, black nickel and satin nickel.  Felt covered bottom.  Height 5 inches, with 5 inches.  Packed in an attractive gift box. Price, $5.00 per pair, retail. ” 1933 Chase Brass & Copper Co.  Catalog. 

The Chase Brass and Copper Company in the early 1930s morphed  Art Deco style into a more machine like style.  Decorative items produced in the United States in the nineteen thirties grew very geometric.  These bookends represent the trend perfectly – pure geometry.  They were designed by Walter Von Nessen, a leader in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s in American commercial design.  For more information about Von Nessen click here to visit COOPER HEWITT, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Several years ago  antique shops in the Los Angeles area were flooded with reproductions of this pair, all beautiful, so the collector needs to be wary regarding these pairs when in mint condition.

Chase Brass & Copper Co. Centaur trademark..



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Faux Stone Mexican Mask Bookends

The masks on these bookends appear to be stone, but they are a composition of some kind.  We acquired them believing they might be museum reproductions of an old mask, probably Mexican.  A search of images of ancient masks online failed to find any image which matched the features of the bookend mask, not the eyes or the nose or the mouth.  We conclude that the bookend mask is an artist’s conception and nothing matching an ancient mask at all – too bad.

Faux Stone Mask Bookends: Composition on wood. Height 6 inches. Unmarked. 20th-century.


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1920s Exotic Woman Bookends

A very handsome woman is dressed in an exceptional costume and is reclining among beautiful robes.  She could be royalty, perhaps a queen or a princess, but the bookends do not hint at her status or origins.  We will call her Exotic Woman.

Exotic Woman: Gray metal. Height 4.5 inches. Marks: There is a Ronson company label glued to one felt. Circa 1925.

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Posted by on January 4, 2020 in Antiquity, Art Deco, Art Styles


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