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Category Archives: Western

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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Charro Bookends

Charro Bookends:  Gray metal and “mexican marble or onyx”.  Height 6.25 inches.  Inscription:  ArtemetalicA  S.A.  Hecho en Mexico.

Charro Bookends:  Gray metal and “mexican marble or onyx”.  Height 6.25 inches.  Inscription:  ArtemetalicA  S.A.  Hecho en Mexico.

The charro is a Mexican horseman or cowboy who competes in a charreada.   HIs traditional costume is a fancy sombrero, a beautifully-embroidered short jacket, tightly-cut and decorated trousers, and boots.  With lariat in hand, our bookend charro is ready to win the heart of a lady while showing off his skill with the rope.

The Charreada is a Mexican rodeo, and it is the national sport of Mexico.  It is a formal exhibition of horsemanship that dates back to the sixteenth century and is a predecessor of the American rodeo.  Today charreadas can  be seen in Mexico (Click here for photos of a Charreada from The Guardian in 2014) and in the U.S (Click here for a link to the San Antonio, Texas organization ). We found these bookends in the heart of California’s Central Valley, which has a tradition of rodeos and vaqueros.

It is unusual to see metal bookends from Mexico.  Most Mexican bookends we see are relatively crudely shaped stone pairs, generally greenish yellow, sold as mexican onyx. They can be found in craft and tourist shops at border crossings.

These Charro figures are finely cast of metal and each is mounted on single block of mexican onyx. The detail is excellent. You can see the embroidery on the jacket and the metal “galas” down the outside seams of the pants.  There is a paper label on one of the bookends identifying the maker as

Paper labels on base of one of the Charro Bookends

Paper labels on base of one of the Charro Bookends

Recently we visited a bronze foundry in Tijuana, B.C.,Mex. . While our bookends were not made at this particular foundry, it is an example of the type of foundries to be found in Mexico where quality casting work like this is done today.

 
 

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“Trecking West” Prairie Schooner Bookends

Photo of Trecking West Bookends

“Trecking West”, Painted Iron. 6″. Circa 1930. Cincinnati Artistic.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, wagons called Prairie Schooners, Covered Wagons, Conestoga Wagons, or the Camels of the Prairies provided the transportation of migrating families, merchants, gold-seekers, and more, across the plains and the mountains of the western United States.  This bookend pair is cast in low relief, but it is busy. The artist has managed to include one covered wagon, two pairs of yoked oxen, two people, and the title – “Trecking West”.  The title honors the American “Trek”, a word borrowed from the South African Boers’ depiction of their migration in the 1830s to the more northerly territories on the African Continent.

Photo of Cincinnati Artistic inscription

Reverse of “Trecking West” bookends showing Cincinnati Artistic and Patent Appl. For inscriptions

The foundry that made “Trecking West” is more than likely Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works Co. This company operated from the late 1890s until August of 1995 when as Artistic Wrought Iron it sold off it’s remaining stock with an advertisement in the “antiques” classifieds of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It was known for it’s quality lamps and other architectural wrought iron items during the 1930s. A lamp from Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works was appraised by David P. McCarron on the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in 2010. Click here to reach that appraisal video.

Several Western bookends feature covered wagons. Hubley made at least 2 different versions, one of which is shown below. W.H. Howell’s contribution to the genre is documented in the BOOKEND REVUE, Fig. 194, Seecof & Seecof, and in Gerald P. McBride’s book, A Collector’s Guide to CAST METAL BOOKENDS, on page 108.

Electroformed bronze Covered Wagon bookends signed by Paul Herzel and attributed to Pompeian Bronze can be found on page 48 of BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof & Seecof, 2012.

Photo of Covered Wagon bookends

The Covered Wagon. 5.5″, electroformed bronze. Signed Paul Herzel. Attrib. to Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1920.

 

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Bookends for Desert Lovers

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The California and Arizona Deserts are in high bloom this 2016 Spring.  Saguaro Cactus, Skulls, and Brown Earth are the symbols we usually associate with the deserts of the Southwest and here are two pairs of vintage bookends that represent those symbols.

Desert Scene: Bronze deposited on gray metal, Height 6 inches, Shopmark: J.B. 1357. circa 1930.

Desert Scene: Bronze deposited on gray metal, Height 6 inches, Shopmark: J.B. 1357. circa 1930.

These bookends were produced by Jennings Brothers, a well respected foundry which functioned from about 1891 to about 1955 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  A dramatic steer skull is shown against a backdrop of Saguaro cacti.

The desert of the Southwestern U.S. supports a small number of grazing cattle, and it is not surprising to find their skulls bleaching in the sun on the desert floor.  The Saguaro cactus is found only in the Sonoran desert of The Southwest U.S. and Mexico.  A plant can grow up to 60 feet tall and live up to 200 years.  Bleached skulls are available commercialy as decorative pieces or Indian artifacts.

A Saguaro and a type of Opuntia (Prickly Pear) cactus stand in this scene.  The bookends are  fashioned from a solid block of wood and painted.  Wood bookends are generally not as desirable as those from metal, and these were very inexpensive.  But, a close exam shows they have some merit.  First, they are signed M.M. The wood is heavy and coated with gesso.  The face is made concave which helps the mountains to recede.  The scene of desert floor with mountains in the background rings true.  The painting is very careful, and the scenes on the pair match very well.  The pair is very pleasing to collectors who love the desert.

 

 

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Guardian Spirit Bookends

Photo of Guardian Spirit Bookends

Northwest-Coast Indian Guardian-Spirit Bookends.  Red Cedar and paint, Height 6.5 inches, probably folk art, probably twentieth century.

The figures on these bookends look like movie animation creatures, but they represent traditional guardian spirits of the Norhwest Coast Indians.  Guardian spirits protect their owners from evil spirits and from dangers in general. We have owned these bookends for a number of years and during that time our home has been safe from evil or damage, so, obviously, the bookends are powerful and doing their job.  We will keep them, and continue to enjoy their protection.

 

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IRON HORSE Train Bookends

Promotional Bookends. Westinghouse Air Brake Co.

Iron Horse. Bronze. Height 5.5 in. Inscription: see text. Ten pounds per pair. 1969.

The Plains Indians called trains “iron horses” in the nineteenth century, or perhaps they were referring only to the steam locomotives that pulled the train.  Either way, the term seems like one that the Indians would have originated, something that I always believed.  But, in fact, railroads, trains and steam locomotives appeared in England in about 1830, before they appeared in America, and the English coined the term “iron horse” to describe them.

These bookends, named Iron Horse, show such a nineteenth-century steam locomotive. The legend on the rear of each bookend reads “100th anniversary 1869-1969 Westinghouse Air Brake Co.  Cast in Willmerding foundry.”  Commemorating a double Centennial, 1869 refers to the founding date of the Westinghouse Air Brake Co. and it is also the year the transcontinental railroad was completed with the meeting of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads on May 10 at Promontory Summit, Utah.

The Iron Horse lives on in myth and legend and movies. The company founded by George Westinghouse, inventor and manufacturer, continued to produce air brakes until the year 2000. The advent of Air Brakes dramatically improved the safety, speed, and growth of the trains as the locomotive engineer could apply the brakes instead of having brakes applied manually on each individual train car by a brakeman.

 

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Cigar-Store Indian Bookends

Photo of Cigar Store Indian Bookends

Cigar Store Indians: Iron. Height 9.5 in. Inscription: The Strata Group 1988. There is a Strata Group in Baltimore, but they deny issuing these bookends. The foundry remains unknown.

Cigar-store Indians have a long history.  They appeared first in England in the seventeenth century with the arrival of tobacco.  The English knew that the new import of tobacco coming into the country was derived from the tobacco used by American Indians.  They responded by stationing carved wooden Indians outside the new tobacco shops as advertising figures.  In the eighteenth century, life-sized wooden Indians appeared outside American tobacco shops.  Today antique carved wooden Indians are valuable collector’s items and are quite rare.  Wooden Indians are no longer seen outside tobacco shops, and shops like these are nearly gone.

There is, however, one pair of recently-produced bookends to remind collectors and tobacco lovers of the wooden advertising Indians of bygone eras.  Each Indian of this pair presents a handful of cigars because Indians holding cigars were commonplace and were called cigar-store Indians.  The bookends are not carved of wood,  and they are novelties rather than serious art work,  but they are cast in substantial iron, and they are fun conversation pieces  Recent iron bookends are somewhat unusual because relatively few pairs of iron bookends were produced after 1930, and today new bookends are frequently of resin.

 

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