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The Spirit of St Louis Bookends

There is an abundance of bookends commemorating the historic 1927 flight of Charles LIndbergh across the Atlantic from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, NY to LeBourget Airport, France.  Lindbergh is captured in profile, in bust, in flying outfit, in front of the plane,…………..    

Photo of Spirit of St Louis bookends

Spirit of Saint Louis.  Iron, Height 5 inches. Inscription on the front:  FIRST NON STOP FLIGHT  NEW YORK TO PARIS MAY 21st TO 22nd 1927. TIME: 33HRS: 21MIN.  PILOTED BY CAPT. CHARLES A. LINDBERGH.  on the back:  WM P CO 1120.  circa 1927. (Note – the dates are wrong.)

This bookend, showing the Spirit of Saint Louis, reminds us that the historic significance of the flight was about more than just Lindbergh.  It was about a PRIZE and $$$, it was about GLORY, it was about ENGINEERING, and INGENUITY, and IMAGINATION, and it was about CELEBRITY and REPUTATION.  And it was a competitive race to be FIRST!

The Orteig Prize of $25,000 was originally offered in 1919 for the first non-stop flight from New York City to Paris, or the reverse, by an Allied Aviator.  Offered for 5 years there were no competitors.  It was re-offered in June 1925, and since aviation had made significant advances, a competitive field showed up.  Six aviators died in their attempts and others were hurt.  In 1927 there were several groups prepping for attempts at the prize, including one headed by polar explorer Richard E. Byrd.  April and May of 1927 found everyone gathering at Roosevelt Field and Curtis Field testing their planes and waiting for the right conditions for the flight. 

An Airmail pilot, Charles Lindbergh, managed to convince 9 Saint Louis, Missouri businessmen to back him;  and a small aeronautical firm in San Diego to deliver a plane, to his specifications, in sixty days.  He was convinced that a single-engine monoplane using a whirlwind engine could take him to Paris.  The “Ryan NYP” (for New York to Paris) was built.  On May 10 -12 he flew it to Curtiss Field on Long Island, NY, setting a new North American transcontinental speed record, stopping in St. Louis on the way.    Byrd offered Lindbergh the use of the longer Roosevelt Field runway.  Lindbergh takes off on May 20 and thirty-three and half hours later captures the Orteig Prize by landing in Paris on May 21.  

The plane designed by Donald A Hall and built in San Diego which carried Lindbergh to success now rests in the Smithsonian, while a reproduction built in 1978-79, the Spirit of Saint Louis 3, resides in the rotunda of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park.  Spirit 3 was last flown on the 75th anniversary of the 1927 flight. 

Photo of Spirit 3, Air and Space Museum, San Diego

Spirit of Saint Louis 3. Reproduction at the Air and Space Museum, Balboa Park, San Diego. It was flown on the 75th Anniversary of the original flight. The Bookend Collector, Bob Seecof, gives perspective to the plane’s size.

 
 

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Temple of ISIS Bookends

Photo of ISIS Bookends

Temple of Isis:  Height 4 inches, Iron.  Mark-Bradley and Hubbard, circa 1925.  Part of the Egyptian revival throughout the Western world which followed the display of the tomb contents of Tutankhamun in 1923.

Riveted on the front base of each bookend is a metal plate with the inscription “TEMPLE OF ISIS,” which should identify the ruins.  Are they Greek, Egyptian, Roman or a Victorian interpretation of the facade of a Temple to Isis?  In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the ruins of the ancient world were of great interest to European and American travelers or tourists.  As bookends became popular decorative items in Victorian homes, they often reflected this interest in classical themes, such as this bookend of the Temple of ISIS.  

Isis was a very important Goddess in ancient Egypt.   Already present in the Egyptian  pantheon by 2000 BCE, she became the Goddess of motherhood, and was also revered as a magical healer who could cure the sick and bring the dead back to life.

The cult of Isis spread throughout the greater Greek and  Roman world, including the Greek island of Delos, where a famed ruin of an ISIS Temple stands. The island of Delos was a popular early tourist destination.  These bookends depict temple ruins that resemble the Delos ruins but not exactly.  Perhaps the Bradley and Hubbard artist never saw the Delos ruin.  

So…. our first guess was that these bookends were representative of the ruins on the Greek Island of Delos.  But the Delos ruins have only 4 columns and are topped by an entablature (the upper part of a Classical design comprising an architrave, frieze and cornice), in other words, a triangle.  

However, there was another early and famous tourism site in Egypt, the ruins of Philae.  And these ruins drew the attention of the world in the early 1900s (when bookends were coming into vogue) as they were in danger of being swamped by the building of the first ASWAN dam in 1902.  The Temple of Isis at Philae is credited with columns that reflect the influence of Greek and Roman occupation of Egypt, such as carvings that resemble bundled reeds.  The 5 columns of these bookends appear to have the “bundled reeds” carvings near the top.  There are 5 columns along the side of the Temple of Isis at Philae.  And our bookends display a Winged Sun Disc on the underhang of the cornice. A very typical Egyptian motif in the early 20th century. 

 So… our second guess would be that these bookends were meant to represent the Temple of Isis at Philae.  We’d like to point out that Theodore Roosevelt visited these ruins in the early 1870s, long before they were moved to higher ground in order to preserve them.  

 

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Nude Flapper Bookends

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

Feminism was very topical in the nineteen twenties.  Young ladies wanted the free and easy lifestyle of men, including smoking, gambling, drinking and sexual contacts.  In order to look more like men they deemphasized breasts and cut their hair short.  Today we remember these young ladies as flappers: The origin of the term is uncertain, however, click here for a Geneva (New York) Historical Society blog post from 2013 with a pretty thorough summary of the etymology.  

Issued in the nineteen twenties, these bookend nudes show us the short feminist haircut of the era, called “the bob,” so we know she was a flapper.

Nude Flapper: Height: 5.5 inches, Gray metal, Attributed to Ronson, circa 1925.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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Philippine Weaver Bookends

Photo of Philippine Weaver Bookends

Filipina Weaving Bookends:  Wood. Height 7.5 inches. Unmarked. Mid-twentieth century.

Once in a while we see a pair of nicely carved Filipino bookends in an antique shop.   They are usually a man or a woman carved from a single block of wood or a pair of horse heads.  This set is more elaborate; each bookend shows an indigenous, perhaps Ifugao, Philippine woman weaving a cloth with a traditional geometric pattern on a traditional Palay hand loom.  Each carving is from a single block of wood, probably native monkey pod wood, which has this appearance and is used for carving sculptures, tourist items, and for making furniture.  The carver has captured the tension required in the legs and feet as the weaver tamps down the weft, or filling, in her weaving.

 

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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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YE OLDE PRINTER Bookends

Ye Olde Printer:  Electroform  bronze.  Height 5 inches.  Markings:  Ye Olde Printer, Ruhl Sc (sculptor) (John Ruhl, 1873-1940.) Armor Bronze shopmark.  Circa 1915.

 

Johannes Gutenberg, German blacksmith, goldsmith, inventor, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, invented metal movable type in about 1440.  He adapted the use of metal type to a screw press (already available) to form a printing press that enabled the rapid production of books, the first of which was the Gutenberg Bible.   Similar printing presses were built all over Europe, and millions of books appeared and were distributed thereafter.  This was the information revolution of that distant age.

Illustration of a printing press and composing stick from the first edition (1766-7) of the Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Vol. 3, plate CXLVII, Figure 1. https://www.britannica.com/technology/printing-press

The writings and pictures by Martin Luther (1483-1546), Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), and  John Calvin( 1509-1564 were printed on Gutenberg presses and their wide-spread availablity was critical to the initiation of the Protestant Reformation.

William Gilbert (1544-1603), an English scientist and physician to Queen Elizabeth I, published Die Magnete in 1600 which was his pioneering work in experimental science.  In it he presented the structure and procedures of experimental science for the first time, and this was arguably the greatest invention of secular humanity for all time. The Gutenberg printing press sped the dissemination of the scientific method across the literate world. 

These bookends, entitled Ye Olde Printer, depict a Gutenberg printing press.  The printer moves a handle which turns a screw, and the screw presses a plate of inked type to a medium of paper or other material.  The words formed by the inked type are transferred to the paper this way.  The screw is visible at the back of the press.  The immensely significant Gutenberg press is certainly a suitable subject for bookends.

UPDATE:  Chris Bernhard sent photos of his Ye Olde Printer bookends.  They are also sculpted by J. Ruhl and produced by Armor Bronze and are taller and more colorful.  And they are a good addition to the post.

 

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Art Styles, Literary

 

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GEOMETRIC ART-DECO DOG BOOKENDS

Geometric dogs:  Molded Porcelain with green crackle glaze.  Height 8 inches. Weight 2 lbs each. Marked (see below). circa 1935.

Geometric themes were popular In the United States during the 1930’s Art Deco period. Bookend animals were sometimes abstracted with flattened surfaces and sharp angles.  These green ceramic dogs with a crackle glaze show such flat surfaces and the angularity is heightened by whitening the sharpened edges.  It is our assumption that these intriguing Scotties were made in the thirties. However, we have not been able to confirm anything about these bookends.  We do not know the pottery that produced them or the name of the artist.  Each dog bears a small impressed mark on the bottom so identifying the dogs should be easy, but we cannot identify the mark. The bookends are large, heavy and attractive but baffling.

Green crackle glaze on white highlighting on Geometric Dogs Bookends

Enlarged impressed Maker’s Mark on Geometric Dog Bookends

We have spent quite a bit of time trying to unravel the mystery Maker’s Mark – to no avail. We were guessing that it was either Japanese or Chinese. However, a cat fancier and collector, who goes by the moniker, Kait-Kat, contacted The Bookend Collector regarding her geometric Cat bookends. The photos of her Cat bookends are remarkably similar to our Geometric Dogs. The Maker’s Mark, “Made In Japan”, on her bookends is quite clear and most probably dates from the 1930’s.

Porcelain Green Art Deco Cats made in japan, Property of Kait-Kat

Geometric Cats Maker’s Mark. “Made In Japan”, paint stamp under glaze.

 

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