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Foundries that Changed Bookend Styles

States began mandating universal elementary school attendance in the late nineteenth century and Americans became literate. At about the same time, the cost of books began to decline due to technological advances. Less affluent Americans could now buy books to read and display as an indicator of their refinement. As home libraries grew so did the need for bookends.  Wealthy people with libraries and fancy shelving could hold up their books with a single bronze bust or statue.  A family with a modest income could purchase small shelves (book slides) for their fireplace mantles or chest tops.  Even better were 2 pieces that could hold up just one book or a expanding library.   Bookends began appearing as gifts or as decor around 1900 to meet a growing market.

Across America, but principally in the north east, foundries began producing bookends.  Most bookends were  made through sand casting (see our 2012 book for descriptions of casting methods), and bookends were primarily of the same “L” shaped genre.  Foundries utilized topical subjects and artists to decorate these bookends and to entice buyers. 

Three foundries will be given special mention here because they made novel contributions to bookend design or they were especially favored by the public.

KBW. “Admiration”. 9 inches. Electroform Bronze. 1914.

Kathodian Bronze Works (KBW) was active in New York City from about 1900 to about 1916.  They produced  bronze BOOK ROCKS (bookends), generally in Victorian style, by the electroform method, usually marked KBW or ARTBRONZ. Each bookend was clearly a work of art and pleasing to see, but this foundry did not stand out for artistic conception alone. As can be seen in the advertisement below, KBW Book Rocks were carried in fashionable stores all across the United States and its territories, from Boston to Hawaii.   In fact, Gustave Stickley, icon of the early Arts and Crafts movement in America, chose to retail KBW Book Rocks in his New York City furniture shop, The Craftsman.  The Stickley shop “NEW YORK, Gustave Stickley, The Craftsman”,  is listed at the top right among the “List of Exclusive Agencies” in the advertisement shown below.  Today KBW bookends are deservedly desirable.

Photo of KBW Advertisement

The Literary Digest for November 14, 1914

The J B Hirsch Foundry, established in 1907 and active until recently, gave us bookends with celluloid parts.  Celluloid parts mimicked the ivory parts that were used in high-end sculptures. and lent panache to bookends.  Celluloid, also referred to as Ivorine, is often denigrated now because it lacks the qualities of ivory, but all plastics were new and desirable in the early thirties.  Bakelite, for example, was used for jewelery. Best of all, bookends with celluloid parts could be mass produced.

J.B. Hirsch Bird. 6″ Gray Metal with celluloid beak and bakelite base. Circa 1932.

The Frankart company was founded by the artist Arthur Frankenberg in 1921.  The company produced a number of metal items, among which were bookends featuring young ladies of  outstanding appearance.  Prior to Frankart, ladies in artwork were generally modeled in Victorian style  with curvaceous bodies, frequently nude but with some device to avoid obscenity. For example, on the KBW “Admiration” bookends shown above, a watching frog imbues the sculpture with the beauty of nature.   Frankart ladies, by contrast, were slender, elfin nudes, cute, graceful,  and very well-received by the public, yet even here a frog is part of the depiction.  Today, these Frankart bookends are considered for their ART DECO appeal and sell for high prices.   Frankenberg left the company in 1930 and thereafter, Frankart bookends were frequently made from low quality pot metal which has steadily deteriorated since that time. Buyer beware.

Nude and Frog. 10.25″ gray metal. Inscription: Frankart Inc. and 1922 with a copyright symbol.

 

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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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Sitting Ladies Bookends

 

Sitting Ladies: Grey metal, Height 7 inches, Inscription: Janle and Made in France. circa 1925.  Janle is suspected to be a pseudonym for Max Le Verrier.

Sitting Ladies: Grey metal, Height 7 inches, Inscription: Janle and Made in France. circa 1925.  Janle is suspected to be a pseudonym for Max Le Verrier.

These Art deco bookends are large, well-cast and beautiful, and would be desirable with no further provenance.  But, in addition, they are signed by the french artist Janle and were cast by the prominent french foundry of Le Verrier, all of which makes them high-end productions.

Impressed "Janle" inscription and "Made In France".

Impressed “Janle” inscription and “Made In France”.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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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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Newly Liberated Woman Bookends

Photo of Nude Bookends

Electroformed bronze, height 7 inches, no markings, a paper label on the felt reads Galvano Bronze (Pul Mori & Son). Circa 1920.

Important social changes took place in America in the first two decades of the twentieth century.  The Arts and Crafts movement was established and it is still with us today.   The Women’s Liberation movement  became powerful and Women achieved the vote in 1920, due to the activities of the Suffragetes.  Victorian habits were rapidly fading during these decades, and few remained by1920.  Bustles were gone by 1900, and punishing corsets that produced an hourglass figure were gone by 1912.  Admiration for women’s bodies became acceptable and bookends joined this latter fashion.  Bookends now began to show unabashed nudity to go with the times.  Nudes no longer needed to appear divorced from sex.  Newly liberated woman bookends show a woman reveling in her beautiful natural body.  The flapper era which peaked in the mid-1920s. was about to appear, and bookends would show flappers as they evolved.

 A Newly Liberated Woman Kneeling:  Gray metal.  Height 7 inches?  Attributed to Ronson.  circa 1920.

A Newly Liberated Woman Kneeling:  Gray metal.  Height 7 inches?  Attributed to Ronson.

This lady is proud of her body.  She is not a flapper because her hair is too long and her breasts are too large.  She must date from about 1920 or from the thirties.

 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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Rubensesque Nude Bookends

Photo of Nude Bookends

Ruebensesque Bookends. Gray metal.  Height 7 inches.  The base looks like marble but is apparently soapstone.  Unmarked. Circa 1920. Usually attributed to Ronson but the soapstone base and globular footing are suggestive of the Hirsch Foundry.

Portrait of Helene Fourment, Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Het Pelsken (Portrait of Helene Fourment), Peter Paul Ruebens young wife, ca. 1638. Located in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. If she drew back her cape she would probably look like the bookends.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and probably before then as well, heavier women were more appreciated than the slender fashion models we admire today.  Each of these bookends shows a softly-rounded lady wearing a cape and we guess she would have been very popular a few hundred years ago, and if she were even heavier she would have been even more desirable.  This lady must be from just before the nineteen twenties flapper era when the boyish figures of the flapper took over.

The lady on this bookend is reminiscent of the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. In 1630 Rubens, in his fifties, remarried  after the death of his first wife. His second wife, Helene, a voluptuous 16 year old, became the inspiration for a number of his female figures. Click here to view The Three Graces displayed at the Prado Museum.

Ronson bookends featuring these female sculptures with a different base can be found in BOOKEND REVUE, figure 357, page 97 and in BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Design, figure 280, page 120.  Another Ronson example can be found at Chuck DaCostas Antique Bookend Collection website.  He has labeled his example, “Woman in Flight.”

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Antiquity, Art Styles, Victorian

 

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CLASSIC ART Bookends

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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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Aesthetic, Antiquity, Art Styles, Victorian

 

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Frankart Nude & Frog Bookends

Frankart Inc. was a New York City foundry established by the artist, Arthur von Frankenberg, in the early nineteen twenties.  Frankart Inc. produced bookends, ashtrays, lamps, and other metal household accessories.  Many of the items featured streamlined, sylph-like female nudes designed by von Frankenberg which were very well received, possibly because they contrasted with classical Victorian nudes and were compatible with the emerging boyish  figures of the flapper girls.  The success of Frankart items has continued to the present day, and Frankart bookends are collected today by lovers of Art Deco.

One of the earliest pairs of Frankart bookends are popularly known as Nude and Frog. The Nude and Frog bookends are transitional between Victorian and Art Deco styles. Each bookend presents a sylph-like nude standing on one leg and shying away from a frog nearby.  The inclusion of the frog is a bow to the passing Victorian style which was overlapping with Art Deco at this time.  The frog is a Victorian element which makes the female a  creature of nature rather than a sexual object. Victorian nudes were often presented as nymphs or Classical Greek or Roman personages in order to avoid sexual connotation. Art Deco elements in these original bookends include a streamlined female and geometric buttressing.

The woman that posed for these bookends was Leone Osborne, a celebrated  model of the day.

Photo of Frankart Bookends

The nude in the original foundry pair is stabilized with Art Deco geometric buttressing against the supporting foot and ankle and is marked Copyright 1922 and Frankart Inc.  These original pairs are rare. Gray metal, height 11.25 inches Inscription:  Copyright 1922, Frankart Inc.

Later Frankart productions are unabashedly Art Deco, as can be seen in the bookends presented on the Decollector website.
There are many Nude and Frog pairs without the geometric buttressing around the nude’s foot and marked only with the 1922 date.  These are later Frankart issues, such as the one in the 1930-31 catalog are listed as Frog. There are also unauthorized reproductions.   Serious collectors obviously prefer the originals.

For contrast with the transitional Frankart pose, the bookends below show a female nude in Victorian style.  She is certainly not an object of prurience, but is rather a creature of the forest and she plays with animals, such as this orange frog, and does not traffic with men.

Photo of Victorian Nude Bookends

Armor Bronze,  Forest Nymph and Frog, signed by Salvador Morani, circa 1914, height 7.5 inches, electroformed bronze.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Art Deco, Victorian

 

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Two Quintessential Deco Bookends

The artists who designed these bookends were certainly aware of the images that were fashionable in the U.S.A. in the twenties and thirties.  These two pairs are exceptional because each pair includes a variety of Deco concepts, and between them they show most of the images of that era.

The dog bookends show us a number of iconic Art Deco elements.  Namely, a subject matter that was popular in the nineteen twenties, a sleek, shiny, surface, a reference to speed, and geometric aspects.

The dogs are Greyhounds or Salukis, both of which are associated with speed, sleek appearance and were popular animals during the nineteen twenties. Today, the Greyhound Bus Company and its trademark symbol is a remaining example of the twenties and thirties and reminds us of the way in which increased speed in transportation changed the face of the country.

Photo of Frankart Greyhound Bookends

Bright Greyhound: Gray metal, Height 5,75 inches, Circa 1935, Inscription: Frankart Inc.

There are no attached decorations; decoration is provided by the shining surface of the bookends.  These bookends are plated with chrome or nickel to get this effect. Decoration via the surface appearance, especially a shining surface, speaks to Deco. Decorative highly-reflective surfaces, such as polished stainless steel, were frequently used during the twenties and thirties in diners, theaters, hotels, train and bus stations.

The space beneath the dog is bounded by the arc of a circle, and the feet rest on small solid-rectangular plinths.  The head of the dog is turned to show its far side, which is a touch of cubism, an art style that is grounded in geometry.

These nude lady bookends also show very deco elements: streamlining, stairstep design, and fluted column.

Photo of NUART Nude Bookends

Nude on Fluted Pedestal-Gray Metal, Height 7 inches, Circa 1930, Inscription: NUART Creations.

The lady is has a streamlined figure and sports the flapper hair style known as a “Bob”.  Streamlining was the pervasive American contribution to Art Deco.

She sits on a fluted column, a structure favored by Deco designers.  The edges of the upright portion of each bookend are made into skyscraper or stair-step design.  The stair-step design is the image that represents the setback profile of skyscrapers.  Skyscraper buildings were a recognized symbol of modern technical triumph in the nineteen twenties and in the thirties and this flapper is posed against a skyscraper.

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Animals, Art Deco, Art Styles

 

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EVE: Painted Iron Bookends

Here is a pair of iron bookends seen frequently on eBay, but this pair is the only one we have ever seen in polychrome. The colors certainly sharpen the image.  The foliage behind Eve is suggestive of the Garden of Eden, although no apples or snakes are visible.  The reverse of these bookends is stamped “Verona 688 Pat. Pend.”

Photo of Eve Bookends

“EVE” appears on the lower right near the lady’s left calf. It is hard to see. The bookends are 7 inches tall.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Art Styles, Victorian

 

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