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Category Archives: Victorian

THE SPINNING WHEEL: A Symbol of American Protest

 

Spinning Wheel Bookends: grey metal with faux ivory (celluloid) face and hands, bakelite base.  Height 6.5 inches. Marked J. Ruhl (sculptor John Ruhl,  1873-1940 ).  Attributed to Hirsch foundry.  circa 1930.  The drive wheel spins at a touch. 

In Colonial times, women spun fibers into yarn on spinning wheels and produced home-made clothing. As the colonies grew, production of wool and wool products allowed for export of these commodities to Britain and other nations.  In 1699 the British forbid their colonies to export wool products in order to protect their textile industry.  The effect of this WOOL ACT of 1699 was to force all commercially produced wool and wool products to be sold to England after which it was resold back to the colonies.  Colonial people then persevered in spinning yarn and producing cloth in order to protest against the Wool Tariffs imposed by Britain. 

The spinning wheel became an important, widespread symbol of resistance to British rule in the run-up to the American Revolution.   At that time, to quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Age of Homespun (Vintage, 2001), “Only six newspaper stories explicitly described the spinners as ‘Daughters of Liberty.’ ‘Young women’ was the usual designation, though terms like ‘Daughters of Industry,’ ‘the fair sex,’ and even ‘noble-hearted Nymphs’ also appeared. Reports from Roxbury and Chebacco alluded to public events, referring to the ‘intolerable Burdens now Laid upon us’ and to the necessity of recovering ‘our rights, properties and privileges,’ but the story from Harpswell cautioned that ‘the Ladies are impressed with such a nice Sense of their Liberties derived from their Maker, as not to be very fond of the tyrannic Restraints or the scheming Partisans of any Party…’”

The art of spinning in the United States is kept alive by handicrafters who demonstrate their skill in spinning, weaving and sewing at nostalgic museums such as Williamsburg, Old Salem, and in exhibitions at fairs such as the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.  Even as spinning has become an re-enactment art form and no longer provides a means of protest ……………..these bookends remind us of our early resistance to foreign domination. 

 

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THE PURITAN and THE PILGRIM BOOKENDS

The colonial era  in America (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) does not get much attention nowadays, but there are bookends that remind us of those times.  One pair labeled THE PURITAN is a near reproduction of a commissioned  bronze sculpture of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595-1675) by the illustrious artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens.. The sculpture was unveiled in Springfield, MA on Thanksgiving Day 1887.  

Puritans, were Calvinist immigrants who came to Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century, and were renowned for their strict spiritual regimen.  The sculptural image of a man dressed in seventeenth century apparel, striding along purposefully and carrying a bible remains a popular conception of a Puritan to this day.  

A National Park Service publication, In Homage to Worthy Ancestors: The Puritan, The Pilgrim, states: 

“Created by sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the Puritan spoke to a family’s pride in a “worthy ancestor” and became an emblem of the city of Springfield, and of the stalwart pioneers who settled Western Massachusetts. The Pilgrim, created later for a committee of city leaders in Philadelphia, was seen as a more general icon of the country’s moral and political strength. For the artist, the demand was so great for this popular figure, that he created reduced versions of the Puritan in bronze for sale to schools, government buildings and individuals.”

In other words, Saint-Gaudens produced two similar sculptures, one is The Puritan, the other is The Pilgrim.  As far as we know the Jennings Brothers bookends, The Puritan shown above,  are based on the Springfield version because the spine of the book does not have “THE BIBLE” emblazoned on it as does the Philadelphia Pilgrim version. 

The Puritan / Pilgrim was a popular and reproduced form that fits in with a colonial-style home decor.  Here is another example by an unknown artist.

The Puritan:  Grey metal, Height 7 inches, There is a light illegible mark within a small circle on the back of each bookend.  First quarter of the twentieth century.

Somewhat similar bookends were produced by Armor Bronze.  Again we have a man in seventeenth century clothing and carrying a bible but under the right arm.  To avoid confusing them with “The Puritan” we  called them “Pilgrim”. However, Gerald P. McBride in “A Collector’s Guide to Cast Metal Bookend (1997)”  called these Armor Bronzes  “Puritan”. 

Pilgrim:  Electroform bronze.  Height 10.5 inches. Circa 1918.  Markings:  Signed by the sculptor Ruhl (John Ruhl, 1873-1940)  Armor Bronze shopmark and label.

In March of 2015 we posted Colonial decor bookends by Chase Inc.  Since that time we have learned that those bookends were made to resemble the hurricane lamps that were used in Colonial times.

 

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ROBINSON CRUSOE

Robinson Crusoe:  Gray metal. Height 6 inches. Markings: Pompeian Bronze. circa 1930. The image for the bookends was taken from an illustration in a Robinson Crusoe edition adapted for children . Crusoe is shown fully armed and leading a small goat.

When Pompeian Bronze Company copyrighted this Robinson Crusoe bookend design in 1930, the book, Robinson Crusoe,  had excited the imagination and adventurist spirit of readers for more than 200 years.  The 1719 edition’s full title was,  entitled, The LIFE and Strange Surprizing ADVENTURES of ROBINSON CRUSOE, of York,. Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Orgonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by PYRATES,

ROBINSON CRUSOE was published in 1719.  It was among the first novels ever published in England. It is the story of a man shipwrecked on a lonely tropical island who by craft and industry survived and even prospered. The book was well received and has gone through hundreds of editions in the last 300 years. Until recently it remained popular with youngsters, although one might guess that it can no longer compete with comic-strip presentations of superheroes.

In the mid-to-late 1800s it was fashionable to abridge classics and make them more palatable to a young audience. Chromolithographs spiced up the stories. A 1882 edition of ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Goldophin (Lucy Aikin) was widely available here in the United States.This is probably the reason that when Robinson Crusoe was first serialized (18 episodes) in film in 1922 and then became a full-length feature in 1927, Pompeian Bronze Company capitalized on the romantic and beautiful drawings of Wal (Walter) Paget in the Goldolphin version to produce their Robinson Crusoe bookends.

A 135 year old chromolithograph illustration from the edition entitled ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Godolphin published in 1882.  Wal (Walter) Paget, Illustrator.

 

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Maltese Dolphin Bookends

Maltese Dolphin:  Brass.  Height 4.5 inches. Inscriptions:  Malta, Made in Malta, also marked with a Maltese Cross.  Attributed to F. Abella and Sons brass foundry.  20th century.

Malta is an archipelago of three small islands in the Mediterranean Sea near Sicily and Italy.  The first people reached Malta in about 5000 BCE and it has experienced a rich history of foreign invasions ever since.  The Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John arrived on Malta in 1530 and ruled for  about 300 years.  The Knights were  a Roman Catholic chivalric and military order who adopted the emblem we know as the Maltese Cross in 1126, and which is now associated with the nation of Malta. The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta now has it’s world headquarters in Rome. Malta became part of the British Empire in the early 1800s, and due to the romance of its location, climate, history and culture was a favorite stop-over for wealthy Europeans doing the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dolphin door handles and door knockers are an ancient decorative feature on Malta buildings. Much admired by the tourists and ex-patriates that visited Malta; replicas showed up in England as early as mid-1800s. For example, In an 1869 English publication called NOTES AND QUERIES, some one asked the following: “DOLPHIN KNOCKERS…….Perhaps the Marquis of Bath can account for one of the sets of dolphin knockers from Dean Street, Fetter Lane. A pair certainly figure prominently on the door of his home in Berkeley Square.”  A footnote on that same page noted, “We have reason to believe that Lord Bath’s knockers were modelled from examples at Malta.”

Brass Dolphin Bookends from Malta with Maker’s Mark. The popularity of the Malta Dolphin as a reminder of a pleasant sojourn has inspired the 20th century production of brass dolphin door knockers and bookends by the foundries on Malta.

 

National Arms of Malta, from Independence in 1964 until 1975. The two dolphins indicated that Malta is an island state. Image and information from Heraldry of the World.

 

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Forest Nymph or Dryad Bookends

Spring is here! These bookends are perfect for Spring.

Wood Nymph and Vase Bookends.  Grey metal and glass.  Height 7.5 inches without the vases.  Unmarked.  Early twentieth century.

Each member of this pair is a lovely wood nymph embracing a removable glass bud vase.  Her upswept hair and her softly draped costume add to the picture of a minor goddess or dryad. She stands on a forest hummock next to a tree stump that holds the vase. There is a red flower on the side of the stump that could be a Red Trillium.  The vases are not important in supporting books. The ladies support the books, but the vases are held away from the books.

Side View of Wood Nymph Bookends. The bud vases are in a flower form and quite heavy.

These bookends are quite Victorian in appearance and are reminiscent of the use of nymphs and fairies in the Arts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Nymphs were popular in poetry, prints, stories, and music.  Jean Sibelius composed and presented in 1895 “The Wood Nymph”, a tone poem based on Viktor Rydberg’s 1882 poem of the same name. An 1872 woodcut,”Die Quelle” or The Source, by the German artist, Kurt von Rozinsky is shown below. This same woodcut was featured in a 1910 edition of “The Bible and Its Story taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons”, a popular book in the United States.

“Die Quelle”. Woodcut by German artist Kurt von Rozinsky. 1872

A Wood Nymph with a vase displaying flowers from the local byways would have been a delightful addition to a 1910 decor.

 

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JB Bookends: Young Man Reading

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Young Man Reading:  Bronze on gray metal.   Height 8 inches.  Weight 8 pounds per pair.  Shopmark  J.B. 2869. Early twentieth century.

Each bookend shows a young man standing and reading.  He wears clothing appropriate to about 1895 – a cap, rolled up sleeves, suspenders, and  short pants..  Perhaps he is reading a newspaper. His disheveled clothing and lack of shoes suggest he is poor.

Beyond these observations, the young man is a mystery.  Does he represent some circumstance from long ago?   Is this a reproduction of a painting or a sculpture or a depiction of a character in a book?  We cannot place the young man so we conclude that he has no special significance other than the bookend-artist’s presentation of a young man from that era.

Perhaps one of our viewers will tell us the significance of this young man.  Until then we simply have a very well cast and finished pair of bookends from Jennings Brothers, a respected foundry.

 
 

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Indian Encampment Bookends

Indian Encampment:  Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

Indian Encampment:  Electroformed Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches. Circa 1910.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

We saw this pair recently and were very surprised.  We thought we had already seen all the Indian bookends, but this pair was new to us.  It is probably very rare.

An Indian holding his pipe sits with his back against a large tree trunk, with a fire circle at his feet.  Two tipis are in the background.  The scene is enclosed in an art-nouveau or aesthetic style frame. It has the feel of a George Caitlin painting.

Photo of Bookend Shopmark

Shopmark on reverse of Indian Encampment Bookends. Foundry has not been identified.

Tipis were houses for the plains Indians.  Each tipi was constructed from supporting poles, tied at the top to give a cone shape and covered with tanned bison hides.  A tipi could be disassembled and carted away, pulled by dogs or horses.  Portability was very important because these people were nomadic and followed the herds of bison across the plains. The tipi on the bookends is representative of what artists in the early 20th century thought tipis looked like, it does not show flaps for a smoke hole and is therefore referred to as a stylized cone according to the author of “Historic Photos of Tipis” website.

Photo of Indian and Tipi

Indian and Tipi with additional Tipis in background.

 

 

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