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THE SPINNING WHEEL: A Symbol of American Protest

 

Spinning Wheel Bookends: grey metal with faux ivory (celluloid) face and hands, bakelite base.  Height 6.5 inches. Marked J. Ruhl (sculptor John Ruhl,  1873-1940 ).  Attributed to Hirsch foundry.  circa 1930.  The drive wheel spins at a touch. 

In Colonial times, women spun fibers into yarn on spinning wheels and produced home-made clothing. As the colonies grew, production of wool and wool products allowed for export of these commodities to Britain and other nations.  In 1699 the British forbid their colonies to export wool products in order to protect their textile industry.  The effect of this WOOL ACT of 1699 was to force all commercially produced wool and wool products to be sold to England after which it was resold back to the colonies.  Colonial people then persevered in spinning yarn and producing cloth in order to protest against the Wool Tariffs imposed by Britain. 

The spinning wheel became an important, widespread symbol of resistance to British rule in the run-up to the American Revolution.   At that time, to quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Age of Homespun (Vintage, 2001), “Only six newspaper stories explicitly described the spinners as ‘Daughters of Liberty.’ ‘Young women’ was the usual designation, though terms like ‘Daughters of Industry,’ ‘the fair sex,’ and even ‘noble-hearted Nymphs’ also appeared. Reports from Roxbury and Chebacco alluded to public events, referring to the ‘intolerable Burdens now Laid upon us’ and to the necessity of recovering ‘our rights, properties and privileges,’ but the story from Harpswell cautioned that ‘the Ladies are impressed with such a nice Sense of their Liberties derived from their Maker, as not to be very fond of the tyrannic Restraints or the scheming Partisans of any Party…’”

The art of spinning in the United States is kept alive by handicrafters who demonstrate their skill in spinning, weaving and sewing at nostalgic museums such as Williamsburg, Old Salem, and in exhibitions at fairs such as the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.  Even as spinning has become an re-enactment art form and no longer provides a means of protest ……………..these bookends remind us of our early resistance to foreign domination. 

 

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THE PURITAN and THE PILGRIM BOOKENDS

The colonial era  in America (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) does not get much attention nowadays, but there are bookends that remind us of those times.  One pair labeled THE PURITAN is a near reproduction of a commissioned  bronze sculpture of Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595-1675) by the illustrious artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens.. The sculpture was unveiled in Springfield, MA on Thanksgiving Day 1887.  

Puritans, were Calvinist immigrants who came to Massachusetts in the early seventeenth century, and were renowned for their strict spiritual regimen.  The sculptural image of a man dressed in seventeenth century apparel, striding along purposefully and carrying a bible remains a popular conception of a Puritan to this day.  

A National Park Service publication, In Homage to Worthy Ancestors: The Puritan, The Pilgrim, states: 

“Created by sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the Puritan spoke to a family’s pride in a “worthy ancestor” and became an emblem of the city of Springfield, and of the stalwart pioneers who settled Western Massachusetts. The Pilgrim, created later for a committee of city leaders in Philadelphia, was seen as a more general icon of the country’s moral and political strength. For the artist, the demand was so great for this popular figure, that he created reduced versions of the Puritan in bronze for sale to schools, government buildings and individuals.”

In other words, Saint-Gaudens produced two similar sculptures, one is The Puritan, the other is The Pilgrim.  As far as we know the Jennings Brothers bookends, The Puritan shown above,  are based on the Springfield version because the spine of the book does not have “THE BIBLE” emblazoned on it as does the Philadelphia Pilgrim version. 

The Puritan / Pilgrim was a popular and reproduced form that fits in with a colonial-style home decor.  Here is another example by an unknown artist.

The Puritan:  Grey metal, Height 7 inches, There is a light illegible mark within a small circle on the back of each bookend.  First quarter of the twentieth century.

Somewhat similar bookends were produced by Armor Bronze.  Again we have a man in seventeenth century clothing and carrying a bible but under the right arm.  To avoid confusing them with “The Puritan” we  called them “Pilgrim”. However, Gerald P. McBride in “A Collector’s Guide to Cast Metal Bookend (1997)”  called these Armor Bronzes  “Puritan”. 

Pilgrim:  Electroform bronze.  Height 10.5 inches. Circa 1918.  Markings:  Signed by the sculptor Ruhl (John Ruhl, 1873-1940)  Armor Bronze shopmark and label.

In March of 2015 we posted Colonial decor bookends by Chase Inc.  Since that time we have learned that those bookends were made to resemble the hurricane lamps that were used in Colonial times.

 

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Studious Monk Bookends Revisited

Studious Monks: Hard-Paste Porcelain bookends, each weighing about 2 lbs and 8 inches in height.

We purchased this pair of monk bookends at an antique show in 2016,  They are porcelain, and carry a mark which we could not identify, but we posted them on July 6, 2016, entitled Studious Monk Bookends.  Very recently, we did identify the mark and the  bookends became very interesting.

The factory mark was an A with a B leaning on it  The mark on a monk was identical except the lower part of the B was not completely formed.The bookends were produced by the Amberg factory in Bavaria, Germany.  This factory produced earthenware and hard-paste porcelain from1709 until 1910.  We guess that the bookends were produced in about 1905 when bookends and monk motifs were becoming popular, which would make them among our earliest bookends.

The factory mark and the mark on the monk is shown.  The information about Amberg and their pottery mark is documented in A Dictionary of Marks by Margaret Taylor, Barrie & Jenkins, London, revised edition by Lucilla Watson, 1992.

 

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Deco Eagle Bookend

Spread Eagle Bookends:  Solid bronze. Height 4 inches. circa 1930

 

The dominant Art Deco motif in nineteen thirties America was streamline, and all manner of objects were given streamlined exteriors to look modern.  To look modern was to look cool in thirties America.  Along side the streamlining, there was a geometric motif, which began earlier, in the twenties.  Objects were made in geometric shapes or covered with geometric figures.

The eagle Bookends shown here are composed of triangles, rectangles and trapezoids, all geometric angled figures.  Very deco. Angled features were called zigzag deco.

Not all geometric objects were were zigzag.  Some were composed of curving geometric figures, like the bookends shown here entitled Rings and Balls, made up in this instance almost entirely of spheres and circular rings.

Copper or brass?   Height 5.25  inches. Inscription:  Shopmark of Chase Inc.   Attributed to Walter Von Nessen.  circa 1936.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2018 in Animals, Art Deco, Streamline

 

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Iwo Jima Bookends

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. A monument “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775”.

United State Marine Corps Memorial

The monument, sculpted by Felix W. de Weldon (Navy), depicts the famous photo by Joe Rosenthal of the unposed flag raising on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

In 1945 American troops were fighting to capture the Pacific island of Iwo JIma.  As the battle progressed, the troops raised American flags over captured Japanese positions. On February 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured an unposed flag raising on Mt Suribachi. A Pulitzer prize photo that became one of the most recognizable war photos of all time and forever linked with the US Marines.

These Iwo Jima bookends depict the photograph in low relief.

Iwo Jima Scene.  Grey metal. Height 6.5 inches. Circa 1970s.  Marked: ALFA Display Co. N.Y.

Follow this link to the National Park Service page that tells the story of the monument and the photo: United States Marine Corps War Memorial.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2018 in Art Styles, Mid-Century, Monument

 

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ROBINSON CRUSOE

Robinson Crusoe:  Gray metal. Height 6 inches. Markings: Pompeian Bronze. circa 1930. The image for the bookends was taken from an illustration in a Robinson Crusoe edition adapted for children . Crusoe is shown fully armed and leading a small goat.

When Pompeian Bronze Company copyrighted this Robinson Crusoe bookend design in 1930, the book, Robinson Crusoe,  had excited the imagination and adventurist spirit of readers for more than 200 years.  The 1719 edition’s full title was,  entitled, The LIFE and Strange Surprizing ADVENTURES of ROBINSON CRUSOE, of York,. Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Orgonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by PYRATES,

ROBINSON CRUSOE was published in 1719.  It was among the first novels ever published in England. It is the story of a man shipwrecked on a lonely tropical island who by craft and industry survived and even prospered. The book was well received and has gone through hundreds of editions in the last 300 years. Until recently it remained popular with youngsters, although one might guess that it can no longer compete with comic-strip presentations of superheroes.

In the mid-to-late 1800s it was fashionable to abridge classics and make them more palatable to a young audience. Chromolithographs spiced up the stories. A 1882 edition of ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Goldophin (Lucy Aikin) was widely available here in the United States.This is probably the reason that when Robinson Crusoe was first serialized (18 episodes) in film in 1922 and then became a full-length feature in 1927, Pompeian Bronze Company capitalized on the romantic and beautiful drawings of Wal (Walter) Paget in the Goldolphin version to produce their Robinson Crusoe bookends.

A 135 year old chromolithograph illustration from the edition entitled ROBINSON CRUSOE in Words of One Syllable by Mary Godolphin published in 1882.  Wal (Walter) Paget, Illustrator.

 

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FRANKART Beauty: Semiclassical and Streamlined

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.  (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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Posted by on November 15, 2017 in Art Deco, Streamline

 

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