Category Archives: New York

Roycroft Owl Bookends

Photo of Roycroft Owl Bookends

Roycroft Engraved Owl Bookends:  Copper, Height 4 inches. Inscription: Roycroft

In 1895 Elbert Hubbard founded the artistic community of Roycroft in the upper New York state village of East Aurora.  Mr. Hubbard established a print shop in East Aurora after a visit to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. The success of the print shop and its publications, which defined a burgeoning interest in what is known as the Arts and Crafts Movement, led to the establishment of shops – a bindery, leather shop, metal working shop and furniture shop. Click this link for an excellent summary, The Roycroft Community, by Hilary Davis on The Arts & Crafts Society website.

Roycroft became a collection of workshops dedicated to producing household items according to the principles of the budding Arts and Crafts Movement.  Accordingly, bookends were designed and fashioned by artists working by hand.  Most of the bookends were made in an L shape from sheet copper, and these are the design of Roycroft and other metal workshop bookends from that era that we generally see today.

Most of these early bookends were decorated in low relief, or not decorated at all, but relied on their exposed construction for decorative appeal.  The bookends shown here exhibit curled corners, hammered surface, and exposed rivets that fasten the upright to the base. In addition,  we see an engraved owl against  a background of fine stipples in the metal.  Collectors appreciate the handwork even though the bookends do not stand out at a distance.


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Organ Grinder Bookends

These bookends offer a nostalgic reminder of the Organ Grinders with their capuchin monkeys performing for coins on the streets of New York City. In 1887 a ban was placed on using monkeys, apparently the monkeys and their activities were not always appreciated by the audience. In 1936, NY City Mayor Fiorella La Guardia banished the Organ Grinders altogether.    The small organs were played by turning a hand crank which operated a concealed bellows and could produce only a few preprogrammed tunes.  In fact, the organ grinders were beggars, and the monkeys were trained to collect coins with their cups.  People gave the organ grinders money from pity or to encourage them to move away and play their repetitive music elsewhere.

Photo of Organ Grinder Bookends

Organ Grinder with Monkey.  Gray metal, Height 7.5 inches. Inscription: APT – N.Y.

Each bookend shows a disreputable-looking organ grinder leaning against a fire hydrant.  He turns the organ crank while his monkey, which looks like the favored capuchin monkey, brandishes a cup. The fire hydrant in the sculpture is very similar to a LUDLOW VALVE, CO, List 75 Model, from 1874, and made in Troy, NY.

This image was gone by the turn into the 20th century so the bookends are probably quite old.  They are marked APT-N.Y. so we assume they were made in New York, but we have been unable determine the company or the meaning of APT. There are other bookends out there that bear the same inscription.


Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Animals, New York, Victorian


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