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Tag Archives: American

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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BEEP! BEEP! Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner Bookends

 

Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

Roadrunner and Coyote Chinese bookends:  Probably resin, Height 7.5 inches, weight 8.5 pounds per pair. There is a label reading Made in China on the bottom of each bookend.

The first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoon, Fast and Furry-ous, featuring Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote  was released in 1949 and featured the famous tunnel through the mountain scene.  Coyote wishes to capture and eat Roadrunner, as usual, so he paints an entrance to a non-existing tunnel on a mountainside and expects Roadrunner to knock himself unconcious when he runs into the false entrance.  To Coyote’s frustration, Roadrunner passes through the entrance and runs down the tunnel.  Coyote tries to follow Roadrunner through the tunnel entrance and the tunnel, but he smashes himself on the painted entrance.  The tunnel sequence starts at 3:31 of the  7 minute video.

The embedded Merrie Melodies cartoon is from the dailymotion website.

The bookends are marked Made in China and clearly reproduce the cartoon.  All previous Chinese-made bookends we have seen have carried American nineteen-twenties or thirties realistic bookend subjects.  Here the Chinese maker is appreciating and replicating zany American humor.  Perhaps this presages a new wave of novel Chinese bookends.

These bookends are very substantial – large, heavy, and with eleven accurately-applied colors with paints that are not affected by water, detergent, or wax.  AND ….. it is clear that anyone of a certain age that sees them covets them.

 

 

 

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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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Moderne Woman Bookends

 

Streamlined American/WPA Moderne Bookends.

Photo of FrankArt Bookends

WPA/AMERICAN MODERNE STREAMLINED LADIES: Grey metal, Height 5.5 inches. Inscription: FRANKART INC. circa 1935.

In  nineteen thirties’ America, streamlining was the most prominent feature of Art Deco fashions.  The American/WPA Moderne art style was a subset of Art Deco.  Here we have bookends showing a bust of a streamlined lady on a Deco geometric, stairstep base with a semi-classical face that belongs to  American/WPA Moderne.  (Click here to compare to the faces in our Post from June 3, 2014, entitled WPA Moderne Bookends.)  The bookends are Frankart’s contribution to both styles at once.

 

 
 

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Bookends as Works of Art

Whenever possible, we like to identify each pair of bookends as to the art style in which they were created. We do this in order to create the perception that bookends are objects of art, not simply collectibles.  Of course, all bookends are art work, sculptures created by artists, so there is no doubt here.  If the art world accepts bookends as an art form, they will keep their value into the future, and not slip into obscurity along with collectibles such as beanie babies, cookie jars, and telephone pole insulators.

Our 2012 book, BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, is devoted to promoting bookends as an art form.  Check out some of our favorite bookend works of art in this slideshow:

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Blenko Glass Bookends

As mid-century modern design becomes ever more popular, BLENKO glass bookends are popping up frequently in antique shops.  BLENKO items are well known to glass collectors, as expressed in this Modernism Magazine article, but have not received much attention from bookend collectors.  Here we have two representative pairs of BLENKO bookends, both of them solid and heavy.

Photo of Blenko Abstract Pyramid Bookends

Abstract pyramids:  Cast glass.  Height 4.5 inches. BLENKO glass Company.  Black by reflected light, but green by transmitted light.  A BLENKO factory label is glued to one bookend.  Designed by Wayne Husted or Joel Myers (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1963, catalog # 6319. A picture of these bookends can be found in the 1965 Blenko catalog.

BLENKO Glass TeePee Bookends

Abstract teepees:  Cast glass. Height 6 inches.  BLENKO Glass Company.  Designed by Don Shepherd (verbal communication with factory spokesperson).  Issued in 1970.

The BLENKO Glass Company, established in 1893 and continuing to produce glassware today, is located in Milton, West Virginia. BLENKO bookends appear frequently on internet auctions and sales.  A person could make an attractive collection of BLENKO’s colorful bookends. A good resource for dating bookends are the catalogs on the BLENKO Project website.  Below is a screen shot of the 1969 Catalog, pg. 13 from that website.

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog.  Screen-capture from www.blenkoproject.org

Bookend array from 1969 BLENKO Catalog. Screen-capture from http://www.blenkoproject.org

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2015 in Animals, Modernist

 

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