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Category Archives: Western

Bucking Bronco Cowboy Bookends

Rodeo Rider:  Gray metal. Height 6.5 inches Inscription:  Ronson, Newark NJ, 1942.

Cowboys riding bucking broncos are not unusual subjects for bookends.  Western themes were popular in home decor in the 1930s and 1940s.  Driven by the popularity of western movies everything from dinner sets to lamps for children’s bedrooms featured cowboys and bucking broncos.   These bookends are notable because they are marked Ronson 1942, and they are the last bookends Ronson produced, as far as we know.

The Philadelphia Manufacturing Company (PMC) issued reproductions of these bookends so collectors must look for the entire inscription on the base.

1942 Ronson’s Makers Mark on Rodeo Rider bookends.

 

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2019 in Art Styles, Mid-Century, Western

 

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Old Mexican Bookends

Photo of Carved Mexican bookends

Old Mexican Bookends:  Wood containing iron weights.  Height woman 5.5 inches, man 6 inches. Five colors.  Unmarked.

This pair of bookends is unusual because they are a cut above the usual Mexican tourist bookends.  The bookends show a peasant man and  woman, huddled down under blankets or serapes.  The pair is hand-carved, and the carving is quite well done; the sombrero is given a concave brim and the faces are painstakingly shown.  It is old because all the paint is uniformly faded.

Old Mexican Bookends: the man’s serape is painted with a design reminiscent of Saltillo weavings, he wears a high-crowned hat. The woman’s rebozo drapes nicely down her back and ends in the typical fringe.  Notice the three plugs visible on the base.

Both bookend bases show plugs that have been used to seal borings into the wood. Holes had been drilled and iron weights inserted to make the bookends heavier.  (a magnet sticks to the base of either bookend).  Weights inserted into the bases of wooden bookends made in the USA are occasionally found, usually in Victorian-styled bookends displaying flowers.  But, who made these bookends; when and where were they made; are they folk art or a commercial effort?  Perhaps one of our followers can give us some information.

 

Sit and Sleep: Bookends of this general appearance are commonly seen in antique shops and shows.  The pair pictured here are early tourist fare, probably from the 1930s.  The tilt of the sombreros suggest the subjects are sleeping and eliminates the need to carve a face on the bookend. The hats are hinged and when tilted backwards, reveal a hollow interior containing a gray-metal slug that gives the bookend more weight.  This caricature of a sleeping Mexican, became widely popular in the United States in the mid-twentieth century.

 

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Crouching Indian Bookends

Crouching Indian:  Gray metal.  Height 5 inches.  Attributed to Ronson because of the familiar black paint with green highlights. circa 1928. A polychromed variation is depicted on page 63 of Ronson’s Art Metal Works by Stuart Schneider, Schiffer Pub., 2001.

This Indian is crouching over a tree stump and peering into the distance for enemies.. The pose looks realistic.   The exaggerated sweep of the headdress and  very shiny surfaces speak to Art Deco.

The crouching pose is not unique.  An early signed pair, copyright 1911, shows us a crouching Indian peering; into the distance for enemies.  The headdress and the surfaces are more restrained, as we could expect from an earlier date. The artist signed her full name, Nellye Partridge, on the front lip of the bookend.

Indian Ambush:  Bronze plating on gray metal.  Height 7 inches.  Inscription:  Nellye Partridge, Copyright 1911.  Attributed to NAL foundry. Photo from BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof, Schiffer Pub. 2012.

We know a Nellye Partridge with a Brooklyn, NY address copyrighted 3 bookend designs: this kneeling indian in 1911 and in 1914 “Babe book ends. Statuette of child lying on one book with feet raised to support others” and “Buffalo book ends. Statuette of buffalo bucking.” In 1913 she had copyrights for several postcards. Little else is known of Nellye Partridge. It is possible that she is the 21year old living in Brooklyn and listed as Nelly E Partridge in the 1900 US Federal Census.

Nellye Partridge signature on Indian Ambush Bookends.

 

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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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