Category Archives: Native American/Indian

Indian War Dancers Bookends

Each bookend shows one Indian beating a drum and one Indian dancing with a knife in one hand and a tomahawk in the other.  The depiction obviously seems to be a war dance or more generally a weapon dance, probably ceremonial.  Most, or perhaps all, American Indian weapon dances were performed en masse with the dancers moving in a circle.  A single dancer with a single drummer probably does not show any traditional ritual dance.  More likely, the figures probably stem from the artist’s imagination.  Regardless of authenticity or the weapons shown, these bookends are outstanding as examples of action in sculpture.

Photo of Indian Dancer and Drummer

Electroformed Bronze: 8.5 inches.  Inscription: Paul Herzel.  Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1919.

We purchased these very rare bookends from a private individual who contacted us after seeing our request in the BOOKENDS WANTED section of this blog.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Rare Alaskan Indian Bookends

Tsimshian Eagle Bookends:  Red cedar wood,  Height 7.25 inches, Carver:  Casper Mather, circa 1940.

Tsimshian Eagle Bookends:  Red cedar wood,  Height 7.25 inches, Carver:  Casper Mather, circa 1940.


These Eagle Bookends were carved by Casper Mather ( 1876-1972) of New Metlakatla and Ketchikan, Alaska. We purchased them, this past year, as having been carved by Eli Tait, another carver from New Metlakatla. In researching them we found a photo postcard of Casper Mather posing with his carvings and showing very similar bookends at his feet.  It soon became clear that while Eli Tait and Casper Mather had very similar carving styles there were also distinct differences, and we are now confidently attributing these bookends to Casper Mather.

Photo of Casper Mather in regalia with some of his carvings.  Note the pair of Eagle bookends at his feet that closely resemble the bookends in this post.

Photo of Casper Mather in regalia with some of his carvings.  Note the pair of Eagle bookends at his feet that closely resemble the bookends in this post.  Photo courtesy of Steve Akerman.  Original photo postcard by Otto Schallerer of Shallerer’s Photo Shop, Ketchikan, AK

Mather was a member of the Tsimshian (Indian) cultural group and of the Episcopal Church group that emigrated with Father William Duncan from Old Metlakatla in Canada to found New Metlakatla on Annette Island, Alaska. Casper was 11 years old at the time of the move in 1887. As part of the move to Alaska, Father Duncan encouraged the emigrants to divest themselves of the old ways. Many tribal objects were destroyed and public display of tribal art was discouraged.  Mather was without formal training as a carver.  Steve Akerman’s website, Early Totem Carvers of New Metlakatla, is dedicated to those early carvers that kept the Metlakatla style of carving alive:

Today Casper Mather is regarded as a prominent Tsimshian carver who helped keep Tsimshian traditional art forms alive during his lifetime.  These eagle bookends were probably carved when Mather lived in Ketchikan, where he moved in the 1920s. Mather was a founder and a preacher in Tsimshian and English at the Indian Episcopal Church in Ketchikan. He led a full and varied life – packer on the Chilkoot Pass, Ship Master and Guide in Alaskan Waters, blacksmith, and Carver. Click the links below to read more about Casper Mather and about New Metlakatla.

Remembering Casper Mather, Master Carver, Remembering Alaskans Series.

The Founding of Metlakatla, by Dave Kiffer.  Stories In The News, Sit.News, Ketchikan, AK



Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cowboy and Indian Salute Bookends

Photo of Armor Bronze Cowboy and Indian Bookends

Cowboy and Indian Salute.  Electroformed bronze.  Height 8 inches.  Armor Bronze,  Taunton, MA foundry, Taunton Armor Bronze labels on both felts.  Circa 1935.

There are dozens of Indian bookends and fewer cowboy bookends, but fewest of all are bookends featuring both cowboys and Indians.  This pair of bookends, produced by the Taunton, Massachusetts foundry of Armor Bronze around 1935, is one of the rare pairings.

By 1935 the film industry had thoroughly imprinted the American movie-going public with the heroics of the West. The biggest movie stars were the likes of Gene Autry, Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, Buck Jones, and Will Rogers. Some of these stars were part Indian. The “Indian” in the movies had moved from always being the enemy to being portrayed, in part, sympathetically and even sometimes heroically. Click here to see the New York Times Movie Review, Sept. 1932, of WHITE EAGLE.

As with other bookend sets, these bookends of a cowboy and an indian with their rearing horse salute, reflected the changing attitudes in American culture.


Tags: , , , , ,

Navajo Weaver Bookends


Photo of Navajo Weaver Postcard

Frasher Foto Postcard, 1932. Navajo Weaver in front of an Upright Loom . A black and white photo postcard of the same family group is located in the FRASHER FOTO POSTCARD COLLECTION at the Pomona, CA Public Library.

In the early days of tourism in the American Southwest, Navajo Weavers would set up their looms near the major roads through the reservation. Donna remembers these weaver tableaus from her family travels through New Mexico and Arizona in the 1940s and 50s. In those days, there were still buckboard wagons and horses tied near the weaver’s camp. Trading posts such as Hubbell’s (now a National Historic Site), and the Fred Harvey Company (Santa Fe Railroad) employed weavers to demonstrate to prospective customers the skill and effort required to produce a Navajo Rug.

Photo of Chalkware Bookends of a Navajo Weaver

Chalkware.  Height 5.5 inches.  Unmarked.  Probably from the first half of the twentieth century. Note the vertical warp strings and how they are wrapped around a log at the bottom.

These fairly crude chalkware bookends are very rare; this is the only pair we’ve seen that show a Navajo weaving at the iconic upright loom. We value the pair for their rarity and for the association it has to our interest in the art and craft of the Indians of the Southwest.

The history of the Navajo Rug has many twists and turns. Domesticated sheep came with the Spanish colonization of the Americas. This was followed by the weaving of wool into wearing blankets and later the familiar floor rugs. The tradition has continued to the present day.  Navajo weavings are prized by collectors and interior designers today, and some Navajo  blankets from the nineteenth century are valued in six figures.

Photo at Toadlena Trading Post.

The Bookend Collector helping to shave a Navajo Rug at the Toadlena Trading Post in 2011.

If you are traveling in New Mexico take time to visit Toadlena Trading Post, where the tradition of quality weaving is maintained.


Tags: , , ,

Indian Emissary Bookends

Native American Chiefs and Leaders visited Washington D.C. and Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries so it was not remarkable in those days to see an Indian in European-style clothing.  But an Indian in tailored jacket on a bookend is very unusual.  This pair of bookends shows an Indian in a jacket and cravat, the only such bookends we have ever seen, and we entitle the pair Indian Emissary.  The pair is six inches tall, electroformed bronze, unmarked, and attributed to Armor Bronze, circa 1915.The bookends are a unique addition to any collection and a great conversation piece as well.

Photo of Indian Bookends

Indian Emissary wears a European style jacket and cravat but his feather and hairstyle reflects his Native American Identity. 6” tall, electroformed bronze.


Tags: , , , ,

Indian Demise Bookends

This pair of Indian bookends tells a story.  The near-naked, muscular warrior is in a pose of fierce resistance, but his club and his quiver of arrows are on the ground, useless.  His woman  is fleeing with their infant child.  We can imagine they are under attack from white men.

Photo of Indian Bookends

Indian Demise, Gray Metal, Height 6.25 inches, Weight 5.5 pounds per pair, Unmarked, Very detailed casting.

The subject matter is very familiar.  Indians and european settlers destroy each other in song and story,  but these are the most graphic bookends that illustrate the conflict.


Tags: , , , ,

Seminole Indian Bookends

These are rare bookends depicting a seated Seminole Indian Woman of the 1920s, apparently sewing or stringing beads.  The sculptor was S. Plasikowski.  The casting company is not known.  Seminole Bookends are listed in both the 1934 & 1954 Catalogs of Copyright Entries for Works of Art  as the work of Serena Plasikowski Denslow.

Photo of Seminole Indian Bookends

Seminole Indian Bookends. 4.5 inches in height. Gray Metal.

Photo of Seminole Bookends Legend

Paper Legend on base of Seminole Bookends

The Seminole Indians in Florida are not the original prehistoric group of Indians from that region.  The Seminoles originated from a mix of local Indians, immigrant Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama, and runaway black slaves, and received their name in the 1770s.  As early as 1880 the Seminoles obtained hand-operated sewing machines and used them to make their own clothing, utilizing a series of multi-colored strips of cloth to create both a ruffled blouse and a long ruffled skirt.

Photo of Postcard showing Seminole Indian Women

Postcard of Seminole Indian Women in Traditional Garb at Tropical Hobbyland, Miami, FL

This fashion of contrasting colors was begun prior to 1920, according to David M. Blackard in his book, PATCHWORK & PALMETTOS, Seminole-Miccosukee Folk Art Since 1820, Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, 1990.  The form evolved into the now familiar characteristic patchwork of blocks or bars of alternating colors and incorporating a sawtooth design through the 1920s and 30s.   Today we see patchwork with rickrack clothing on the handicrafted dolls sold in Florida as souvenirs.

Seminole Indian Souvenirs

Seminole Crafts. Sweetgrass basket with palmetto doll head. Palmetto Doll with ruffled cape and skirt


Tags: , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers

%d bloggers like this: