“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
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.