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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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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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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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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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Bookends Reflect Art of Their Times

Whenever possible, we  like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style and the popular fashion in which they were created.  We do this in order to create the perception that bookends  are objects of art, not simply collectibles. Of course, all bookends are art work, created by artists, so there is no doubt here.  If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, not disappear  like mere collectibles, such as beanie babies did a few years ago.

For many bookends, the artist worked in a recognizable art style, such as Art Deco or Art Nouveau.  For other bookends, the art style is not obvious, but the artist may have chosen subject material which is iconic for an art style that was popular during its design.  For example, bookends displaying Dante and Beatrice we would classify as Victorian art style because their story of unrequited love was universally appreciated by the Victorian mind.

Dante and Beatrice: 7 inches, electroformed bronze. Armor Bronze, circa 1920.

 

Romeo and Juliet:  Here we have Shakespearean characters from a period of Elizabethan Revival In the Victorian era.  

Romeo and Juliet: 7 inches, gray metal, celluloid. JB Hirsch foundry, circa 1920.

 

Altar of Love:  Sentimentality and domesticity were deeply felt in Victorian times.  In this bookend scene  a couple vows enduring love before a mystic flame while the loyal family dog watches and cherubim represent angels. 

Altar of Love: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Pompeian Bronze foundry, circa 1925.

 

Hoops and Balls:  Geometric figures were prominent in American Art Deco in the nineteen thirties.  A number of purely geometric bookends were produced at that time, as were these.

Hoops and Balls: 5.25 inches, copper and brass. Chase Co., design of Walter Von Nessen. circa 1936.

 

Nude on Fluted Pedestal:   A streamlined girl we know to be a flapper because of her bobbed hairdo and deemphasized breasts, sits on a fluted column.  Skyscraper setbacks are seen on the building wall behind her.  Streamlining, flappers, skyscrapers with setbacks, and fluted columns are all iconic of the nineteen twenties.

Nude on Fluted Pedestal: 7 inches, gray metal. NuArt, Inc., Circa 1930.

 

Butterfly Girl:  Beautiful women with wings nearly always mean the art form of Art Nouveau.  In addition to this image the bookends show whiplash markings on the wings, markings associated with Art Nouveau.

Butterfly Girl: 6 inches, grey metal. Circa 1923.

 

Mucha Maiden:  Alphonse Mucha,  a Czech artist, is closely associated with the art style of Art Nouveau.  He is famous for posters which featured beautiful women with whiplash curls.   This bookend woman’s appearance is dominated by curls and so reminds us of “Mucha” women.

Mucha Maiden: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Circa 1919.

 

Man & Woman:  This pair of bookends features a man and a woman for beauty’s sake. There is no moral,  political or other reason for the presentation so we judge it to be of the Aesthetic art style.

Man & Woman: 7.75 inches, solid bronze. Gorham Co., signed R. Aitken. Circa 1915.

 

Parrot on Book:  The Aesthetic art style gave us beautiful bookends with no story attached.  This subject of parrot  on book fits the art style.

Parrot on Book: 6 inches, grey metal. AMW (American Art Works, Ronson). Circa 1927

 

Roycroft Flower:  The Arts and Crafts art style promoted handmade art objects made by artisans who were also the artists.  These Arts and Crafts style bookends were made in the Roycroft workshops from sheet copper by cutting, bending, and hammering.

Roycroft Flower: 3 inches, copper. Circa 1934.

 

Indian Potter:  This Indian brave is fashioning pots from clay, meeting standards for the Arts and Crafts style.  Indian crafts and art were displayed prominently in the era of ARTS and CRAFTS. 

Indian Potter: 4.5 inches, Iron. Circa 1925.

 

MId-Century Modern Art Style:  from roughly 1946 to the present. This style is more of a collection of certain objects produced by certain artists than a coherent art style.  For example, Scandinavian teak objects like these bookends were in demand during these times.

Scandinavian Abstract: 7 inches, teak. Circa 1974.

 

Free Form:   Early Mid-Century objects were rounded forms, notable for the absence of angles, and referred to as Fifties Collectibles.  These bookends were created by Ben Seibel, a successful sculptor with his own foundry.

Free Form: 5.5 inches, gray metal. Ben Seibel, Circa 1960.

 

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The Spirit of St Louis Bookends

There is an abundance of bookends commemorating the historic 1927 flight of Charles LIndbergh across the Atlantic from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, NY to LeBourget Airport, France.  Lindbergh is captured in profile, in bust, in flying outfit, in front of the plane,…………..    

Photo of Spirit of St Louis bookends

Spirit of Saint Louis.  Iron, Height 5 inches. Inscription on the front:  FIRST NON STOP FLIGHT  NEW YORK TO PARIS MAY 21st TO 22nd 1927. TIME: 33HRS: 21MIN.  PILOTED BY CAPT. CHARLES A. LINDBERGH.  on the back:  WM P CO 1120.  circa 1927. (Note – the dates are wrong.)

This bookend, showing the Spirit of Saint Louis, reminds us that the historic significance of the flight was about more than just Lindbergh.  It was about a PRIZE and $$$, it was about GLORY, it was about ENGINEERING, and INGENUITY, and IMAGINATION, and it was about CELEBRITY and REPUTATION.  And it was a competitive race to be FIRST!

The Orteig Prize of $25,000 was originally offered in 1919 for the first non-stop flight from New York City to Paris, or the reverse, by an Allied Aviator.  Offered for 5 years there were no competitors.  It was re-offered in June 1925, and since aviation had made significant advances, a competitive field showed up.  Six aviators died in their attempts and others were hurt.  In 1927 there were several groups prepping for attempts at the prize, including one headed by polar explorer Richard E. Byrd.  April and May of 1927 found everyone gathering at Roosevelt Field and Curtis Field testing their planes and waiting for the right conditions for the flight. 

An Airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh, managed to convince 9 Saint Louis, Missouri businessmen to back him;  and a small aeronautical firm in San Diego to deliver a plane, to his specifications, in sixty days.  He was convinced that a single-engine monoplane using a whirlwind engine could take him to Paris.  The “Ryan NYP” (for New York to Paris) was built.  On May 10 -12 he flew it to Curtiss Field on Long Island, NY, setting a new North American transcontinental speed record, stopping in St. Louis on the way.    Byrd offered Lindbergh the use of the longer Roosevelt Field runway.  Lindbergh takes off on May 20 and thirty-three and half hours later captures the Orteig Prize by landing in Paris on May 21.  

The plane designed by Donald A Hall and built in San Diego which carried Lindbergh to success now rests in the Smithsonian, while a reproduction built in 1978-79, the Spirit of Saint Louis 3, resides in the rotunda of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park.  Spirit 3 was last flown on the 75th anniversary of the 1927 flight. 

Photo of Spirit 3, Air and Space Museum, San Diego

Spirit of Saint Louis 3. Reproduction at the Air and Space Museum, Balboa Park, San Diego. It was flown on the 75th Anniversary of the original flight. The Bookend Collector, Bob Seecof, gives perspective to the plane’s size.

 
 

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Temple of ISIS Bookends

Photo of ISIS Bookends

Temple of Isis:  Height 4 inches, Iron.  Mark-Bradley and Hubbard, circa 1925.  Part of the Egyptian revival throughout the Western world which followed the display of the tomb contents of Tutankhamun in 1923.

Riveted on the front base of each bookend is a metal plate with the inscription “TEMPLE OF ISIS,” which should identify the ruins.  Are they Greek, Egyptian, Roman or a Victorian interpretation of the facade of a Temple to Isis?  In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the ruins of the ancient world were of great interest to European and American travelers or tourists.  As bookends became popular decorative items in Victorian homes, they often reflected this interest in classical themes, such as this bookend of the Temple of ISIS.  

Isis was a very important Goddess in ancient Egypt.   Already present in the Egyptian  pantheon by 2000 BCE, she became the Goddess of motherhood, and was also revered as a magical healer who could cure the sick and bring the dead back to life.

The cult of Isis spread throughout the greater Greek and  Roman world, including the Greek island of Delos, where a famed ruin of an ISIS Temple stands. The island of Delos was a popular early tourist destination.  These bookends depict temple ruins that resemble the Delos ruins but not exactly.  Perhaps the Bradley and Hubbard artist never saw the Delos ruin.  

So…. our first guess was that these bookends were representative of the ruins on the Greek Island of Delos.  But the Delos ruins have only 4 columns and are topped by an entablature (the upper part of a Classical design comprising an architrave, frieze and cornice), in other words, a triangle.  

However, there was another early and famous tourism site in Egypt, the ruins of Philae.  And these ruins drew the attention of the world in the early 1900s (when bookends were coming into vogue) as they were in danger of being swamped by the building of the first ASWAN dam in 1902.  The Temple of Isis at Philae is credited with columns that reflect the influence of Greek and Roman occupation of Egypt, such as carvings that resemble bundled reeds.  The 5 columns of these bookends appear to have the “bundled reeds” carvings near the top.  There are 5 columns along the side of the Temple of Isis at Philae.  And our bookends display a Winged Sun Disc on the underhang of the cornice. A very typical Egyptian motif in the early 20th century. 

 So… our second guess would be that these bookends were meant to represent the Temple of Isis at Philae.  We’d like to point out that Theodore Roosevelt visited these ruins in the early 1870s, long before they were moved to higher ground in order to preserve them.  

 

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