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Category Archives: Literary

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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Sunbonnet Sue Bookends

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

This little girl is known as Sunbonnet Sue.  The image was created by the artist and illustrator Bertha Corbett (Melcher) (1872-1950).  Sue became an illustration for the book The Sunbonnet Babies Primer (1900) and for a very popular series of children’s books entitled Sunbonnet Babies  (1902).  You can read an excellent article on Bertha Corbett Melcher in the Minnesota Historical Society publication, Minnesota History Magazine.

Sue has remained a relatively unchanged embroidery and quilt pattern from before 1900 until today.  She also appeared on postcards, dishes, ashtrays and quilts after 1900. Margaret Hobbs Cook, at 104 years young,  has spanned that  century of Sunbonnet Sue’s popularity and Margaret was still quilting at 103.

 

We attribute these bookends to Hubley. Hubley began in 1894 and produced quality painted iron toys, doorstops,  bookends and other products until about 1970.  Because the Sunbonnet Sue image originated and became very popular early on, we guess that Sue bookends were first issued in the first decade of the twentieth century. Many of the Sunbonnet Sue bookends that we see are poorly cast and extensively rusted.  This pair has apparently original paint and in five colors.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Art Styles, Literary, Victorian

 

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Child Writing Bookends

Photo of Child Writing in Book

Child Writing:  Gray metal, Height 5.5 inches, weight 5 pounds per pair, Unmarked.  Attributed to Ronson, circa 1915

There are many bookends that feature children, but we have not seen this pair before. A very young child is sitting on a book with legs outstretched and two books on her lap. The child is writing or drawing on the uppermost  book. There are number of similar pairs that were produced by a variety of foundries, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in which a young child is reading.

We attribute this pair to Ronson because of the gold and maroon colors and the sturdy construction, with pieces made in molds and then soldered together.  The very bottom of each bookend is heavy gauge metal with only a relatively small, square opening. This bottom design is unique and suggests very early bookends.  The pair is unmarked but could have had a company label early on.

Photo of Child Writing Bookends base

Underside of Child Writing Bookends

These bookends are obviously Victorian in style.  The Victorians had great concern for family and children and these bookends certainly celebrate children.  The Victorian era ended with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, but the Victorian style persisted in the early decades of the 20th century in America and still has a following here today.

Here are some further examples of this genre from our book, BOOKENDS Objects of Art and Fashion, Schiffer Publishing 2012.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Literary, Victorian

 

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Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

West Face of Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral: Iron. Height 7 inches. Inscription: Lichfield Cathedral Copyright 1928.

These well-cast iron bookends by Connecticut Foundry are of the West Face of the Lichfield Cathedral in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. LIchfield Cathedral was built during the thirteenth century and stands today as a premier example of Gothic architecture in England. It is the only medieval church in England with 3 spires.  The two spires depicted on the bookends are about 200 feet high. A third and taller spire at the east end of the cathedral is not represented on the bookends. The three spires together are known locally as the “Ladies of the Vale”. It is thought that Anna Seward, a late-eighteenth century romantic poet, daughter of the Canon of Lichfield Cathedral, and called the “Swan of Lichfield”, popularized this appellation through her writings.

There are several pairs of bookends depicting the Lichfield Cathedral.  This pair was cast by the Connecticut Foundry.  Not much is known about this foundry, but they issued numerous bookends in the first few decades of the twentieth century.  Connecticut Foundry bookends are nearly all unpainted iron with a light brown finish and in low relief.  These bookends are a special effort by the foundry because they are cast with great detail and are painted gold.

Connecticut Foundry Makers Mark on reverse of Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

Connecticut Foundry Makers Mark on reverse of Lichfield Cathedral Bookends

These Lichfield Cathedral bookends were a gift from Souvenir Building Collector, Mark Fine.

 

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Studious Monk Bookends

Monks at Ease: Porcelain bookends, each weighing about 2 lbs and 8 inches in height.

Studious Monks: Porcelain. Height 8 inches, Width 4 inches, Depth 5.5 inches. Weight 2 pounds each.

 

This attractive pair of elderly monks reading and dozing caught our eye. We have never seen these bookends before.  Usually, when we see a new pair we can make an educated guess regarding the foundry or the age or the country of origin. However, we have no experience with porcelains. This pair seems unusual, although the subject material is a favorite for Arts and Crafts style.

Monks at Ease: Side View

Studious Monks: Side View

We do not know any other bookends which resemble these.  The bookends were probably slip cast, but there is no expected hole in the bottom.  Two molds were necessary for this pair because the monks are different, so the bookends were fashioned with care.  Both bookends are signed (impressed) but only the first three letters – “Bar”- are legible. On the side of the dozing monk there is an impressed mark, probably a shop mark, a conjoined “AR.”

Perhaps some of our viewers can give us some information regarding these bookends.

 

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Tipsy Monk Bookends

Photo of Monk Bookends GMB

Tipsy Monk Book Ends: Ceramic. Height 7 inches. 1932. Inscription Gladding, McBean & Co. S.F. Cal. and the artist signature Theo. Tracy.

Presentations of monks are associated with objects made in the Arts and Crafts style, including bookends.  The monk is usually identified by his cowl.  Here is a pair of ceramic bookends with each bookend showing a monk sprawling on a huge book.  One apparently intoxicated  monk is facing us with a silly look on his face.  There is a chalice in his right hand with liquid draining from it.  The liquid is presumably wine and the silly expression indicates the monk has had too much of the tipple.  The other monk is leaning sideways with a distressed look on his face.  His look suggests concern for his supply of wine.

During the middle ages thousands of monasteries in Europe produced wine from their own vineyards for ceremonies, consumption, and sale.  Pairs of bookends showing monks like these, one facing forward and holding an empty cup and the other leaning to the side were popular early in the twentieth century.  Such bookends were issued by leading California potteries, including the Catalina Clay Products Co. and the Malibu Potteries, plus independent potters.  Click here to view the post and photo of the Malibu Potteries version from Oct. 7, 2013. All of these inebriated monk  bookends  are highly collectible today.
The pair shown here was issued by Gladding, McBean & Co in their “Semi-Porcelain” line and called “Monk Book Ends” in the 1932 company catalog.  The spine of the book reads “Gladding McBean & Co., S.F. Cal”. A quick search did not yield information about an artist named Theo. Tracy, whose name is inscribed on the back of the bookends.

 

 

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Pan or Faun or Demi-God Bookends

Photo of Pan Bookends

Mythological Creature:  Grey metal.  7 inches.  Inscribed with the name of the listed artist Louise Wilder (1898-?), twentieth century, foundry unknown.

This bookend figure is a child, but It has the hairy hoofed legs of a goat, tall pointed ears, a small tail, the beginnings of horns on its forehead and it is playing two flutes.  It is a juvenile Pan, satyr or faun –  part human, part goat.  These are ugly, libidinous creatures when grown.  Pan was a proper Greek God of nature, shepherds, fertility, sexuality and music, satyrs were similar in looks and activities, but less than Gods, and fauns were later Roman versions, eventually combining them into a single entity. These particular bookends are probably from the 1920s. This was during a time when “there was an astonishing resurgence of interest in the Pan motif.” Patricia Merivale, author of Pan the Goat-God: His Myth in Modern Times, Harvard University Press, 1969, lists works, from the 1890s to 1926, of poetry, novels, children’s books where Pan is part of the narrative, not the least of those being J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows.

The artist who rendered this Pan version was a well-known sculptor of children from the sidewalks of New York during the 1920s, Louise Hibbard Wilder. She lost her hearing when she was a young girl. Following an article about her, as a deaf artist, in Time Magazine in September 1928, a number of articles about Louise were published in newspapers across the United States. One such article in The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) in December 1928, quotes her, “Artists, in addition to imagination and technical skill, need extreme concentration on their work. My deafness has given me more chance more than most artists have for this concentration. Being deaf I have learned to work without interruption.”

Photo of Daily Times Article

“The Daily Times, A Clean Newsy Newspaper For the Home”, Beaver, PA. Monday, October 1, 1928.

In late 1931, Louise and her husband, Bert Wilder, also an artist and sculptor, suffered the fate of many artists during the depression. The New York Times published an article entitiled, ARTIST COUPLE FACE EVICTION WITH BABY, attributing their destitution to portrait and commission fees that could not be collected. Shortly thereafter the Associated Press distributed a story of the response of art collectors to their plight. Commissions were paid, bronzes were bought. And from this date the artist couple seem to disappear – We didn’t manage to find anymore information.

Louise Hibbard Wilder received her art training in the free day classes at Cooper Union. She won a number of prizes for her work. One of her best known works is “The Tiny Turtle”, a bronze figure of a child holding a tiny turtle, which was a popular sculpture for garden fountains (I have been unable to find a picture). She is known to have works cast by the Roman Bronze Works and the Brook Art Bronze Co. of Brooklyn, NY. The bookends pictured above do not have a foundry identification.

 

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