Tag Archives: bronze

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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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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Indian War Dancers Bookends

Each bookend shows one Indian beating a drum and one Indian dancing with a knife in one hand and a tomahawk in the other.  The depiction obviously seems to be a war dance or more generally a weapon dance, probably ceremonial.  Most, or perhaps all, American Indian weapon dances were performed en masse with the dancers moving in a circle.  A single dancer with a single drummer probably does not show any traditional ritual dance.  More likely, the figures probably stem from the artist’s imagination.  Regardless of authenticity or the weapons shown, these bookends are outstanding as examples of action in sculpture.

Photo of Indian Dancer and Drummer

Electroformed Bronze: 8.5 inches.  Inscription: Paul Herzel.  Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1919.

We purchased these very rare bookends from a private individual who contacted us after seeing our request in the BOOKENDS WANTED section of this blog.


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Rare Tiffany & Co Bookends

Lady Knowledge:  Electroformed bronze. Height 8.5 inches.  Two impressed marks. One mark of three circles which may be a foundry mark. The other a mark used by Tiffany & Co.

Lady Knowledge:  Electroformed bronze. Height 8.5 inches.  Two impressed marks. One mark of three circles which may be a foundry mark. The other a mark used by Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. bookends must be very rare.  These are the only bookends we have ever seen with a Tiffany & Co. mark.  Each bookend shows a seated lady with one hand on a world globe and the other on a stack of books.  The bookends are prominently entitled knowledge and each one bears two imprinted marks – The Tiffany & Co. mark and a three circle mark which is probably the foundry mark  but is unknown  to us.

Tiffany & Co. mark:  This mark is documented in Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, Collector Books, 1988.

Tiffany & Co. mark:  This mark is documented in Lehner’s Encyclopedia of U.S. Marks on Pottery, Porcelain & Clay, Collector Books, 1988.

Three circle mark:  Possibly a foundry mark.

Three circle mark:  Possibly a foundry mark.

We requested Tiffany & Co. Archives to give us  information regarding the marks, the foundry, the designer, the date and so on, but we failed to receive any information, as follows:”

“Thank you for your inquiry regarding your bronze bookends in you personal collection.  Unfortunately, the Archives Department is unable to provide information on any piece of bronze.  Tifffany å Co. has retailed bronze since the company’s beginnings in 1837.  Tiffany & Co. Archives has limited information about the company’s production and sale of bronze art.”

It seems reasonable that Tiffany & Co. commissioned these bookends from an outside  foundry for sale as Tiffany & Co. items.   If any collector has a pair like this, we would appreciate knowing which marks, if any, are present, and any other information about them.

The bookends promote knowledge, which can be assigned to the Victorian era’s widespread concern for eternal values.  For example, there are bookends which celebrate youth, innocence, knowledge, pure love, and so on, pictured in Bookend Revue, which Donna and I wrote in 1996.  In addition, Victorian sculptures frequently bore titles.  These characteristics identify the bookends as Victorian art style.  But, the sculpture has Art Nouveau touches as well – long, wavy hair, almost whiplash in appearance, and a long, draped garment which suggests the base of a plant as it trails below, an Art nouveau image.  We judge these bookends to have been fashionable circa 1910.


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Bookends by McClelland Barclay

Photo of Golden McClelland Barclay Nudes

Sitting Nude:  Gray metal, Height 6 inches, signed by McClelland Barclay, Art Deco, American modern, circa 1939.

McClelland Barclay (1891-1943) was one of the best known and successful American artists of the first half of the twentieth century.  Born in St. Louis, he was a student of H.C. Ives, George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty.  Barclay was a painter, an illustrator, a sculptor and a jewelry designer. His illustrations appeared on the covers of many national magazines, as well as on Naval posters for the first and second World Wars. His McClelland Barclay Art Company (1930s) produced numerous small household items, including, of course, bookends.  Barclay died in action as a naval officer in the second World War, but his art lives on.  Online exhibits of his art can be viewed at The Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy Yard, Washington DC and National Museum of American Illustration, Newport RI.

Photo of Sisyphus Bookends by McClelland Barclay

Sisyphus.  Grey metal. Height 6.5 inches.  Sisyphus, the king of ancient Corinth, commited a crime against the Gods and so was forced to repeatedly push a heavy boulder up a steep hill and then watch it roll down again, forever.   The legend of Sisyphus is inscribed on the back of each bookend.

Photo of Inscription on back of Sisyphus Bookends

Reverse of Sisyphus Bookends with Legend.

Barclay bookends feature a variety of subjects – nudes, toadstools, fish, the Greek god Pan, Ivy leaves, bears, horseheads, a number of dogs, and others.  Some were produced by Barclay’s art company and some by other foundries.  “Buddy, The Original Seeing Eye Dog” is one that is seen frequently.  It was originally produced by McClelland Barclay, probably in response to Buddy’s death in 1938,  in a large version (8.5 inches) and in a smaller version (7 inches). The Seeing Eye Dog Foundation in New Jersey has both versions in their collection.   Later, the Dodge Company produced copies that do not have the McClelland Barclay signature.

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Photo of Galvano Bronze Classical Art Bookends

Classic Art Bookends:  Electroformed bronze, height 9.5 inches. Inscription: Classic Art.  Paul Mori and /Son (Galvano Bronze).   Circa 1916.

In Victorian  and Edwardian England, the upper classes made a lifestyle of mistresses, adultery, and free sexual behavior. The English nation, however, otherwise promoted domesticity, fidelity in marriage, and chastity.  Nude female figurines were not acceptable.  Americans picked up some of these traits.  These are American bookends, circa 1916; a nude man and a nude woman.   The woman appears to shield her face in embarrassment. Their nudity is not sexually suggestive. The bookends tell us that by their title:  Classic Art, cast in the metal.

Photo of Galvano Bronze Title of Bookends

Title of Galvano Bronze Nude Bookend Pair on reverse side.

The nudity is attributed to classic Grecian sculpture and is, therefore, quite innocent.  These bookends tell us that Victorian prudery was still fashionable in the United States in the early twentieth century. Nudity was admirable, but only when divorced from sexual connotation.


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Electroformed Bookends – Bronze or Copper?

Recently we have become aware of a trend to incorrectly label electroformed bronze bookends as copper.  One antiques and collectibles site, Eureka, I Found It,  states unequivocally that “Armor Bronze, Pompeian Bronze, and Marion Bronze” are zinc with a copper coating, produced by the “Electroformed” or “Galvano” method.

The Bookend Collector is always Interested in obtaining more information, and recognizing that actual analysis of metal on electroformed or plated bookends is often missing, we contacted the site and asked for supporting documentation for their statement.  Their response was, “……bronze could not be electroplated so it must be copper.”

They are wrong.  Bronze can be electroplated. Bronze, according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, is traditionally an alloy composed of copper and tin, in varying proportions.  In modern times bronze alloys have varied in composition and while bronze is primarily copper the alloy may include zinc, lead, manganese, aluminum.  It’s hardness and strength is improved by the addition of a small amount of phosphorous.   In the excellent treatment of Electroformed / Galvano Castings in Gerald P. McBride’s “A COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO CAST METAL BOOKENDS,” after speaking to the owner of Marion Bronze, he writes ….“The process of electroforming was actually more detailed than it would first appear and required special attention to the amounts of electrical current used and the CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF THE PLATING SOLUTIONS (my caps).”

So far as we know, the metal in electroformed bookends has never been analyzed, and, as yet, we’ve not found the formulas used by the various bookend foundries, so the identity of the metal is not certain.  We do know that electroformed bookends are not plated on zinc, but are plated or electroformed on a composition material or on chalk, this is one difference between electroformed bookends and plated metal bookends.  Additionally, in the electroformed bookends the plating or coating is thick enough to stand on it’s own if the matrix were removed.  In plated metal bookends the plating is usually very thin and is often reduced or removed by dusting or heavy cleaning.  Click here to read our earlier post on electroformed bookends.  Also, there is a discussion of electroforming in BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion on page 159.

Companies that made electroformed bookends include Paul Mori, Armor Bronze, Marion Bronze,  Kathodian Bronze Works (KBW). These foundries claim bronze and there is no reason to doubt them, so we will continue to regard the metal as bronze until proven otherwise.

Some companies that made 3-dimensional, plated metal bookends are Jennings Brothers, Weidman Brothers, …….. The plating may be copper or bronze or other metal on zinc or other gray metal.

A further observation regarding electroformed bookends versus 3-dimensional plated bookends:  in electroformed bookends there are no seams as the plating is done over a matrix, in plated 3-dimensional metal bookends there are seams, usually polished off,  where electrotyped pieces of the sculpture are joined. Click here to view an excellent video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that shows the process employed in electrotyping – a process that mirrors how bookends from foundries such as Jennings Bros. would have been made.

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Posted by on August 14, 2014 in Art Styles


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