Tag Archives: painted iron

Sunbonnet Sue Bookends

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

Sunbonnet Sue:  Iron.  Height 6 inches.  Unmarked.  Attributed to the Hubley Mfg. Co.    circa 1905.

This little girl is known as Sunbonnet Sue.  The image was created by the artist and illustrator Bertha Corbett (Melcher) (1872-1950).  Sue became an illustration for the book The Sunbonnet Babies Primer (1900) and for a very popular series of children’s books entitled Sunbonnet Babies  (1902).  You can read an excellent article on Bertha Corbett Melcher in the Minnesota Historical Society publication, Minnesota History Magazine.

Sue has remained a relatively unchanged embroidery and quilt pattern from before 1900 until today.  She also appeared on postcards, dishes, ashtrays and quilts after 1900. Margaret Hobbs Cook, at 104 years young,  has spanned that  century of Sunbonnet Sue’s popularity and Margaret was still quilting at 103.


We attribute these bookends to Hubley. Hubley began in 1894 and produced quality painted iron toys, doorstops,  bookends and other products until about 1970.  Because the Sunbonnet Sue image originated and became very popular early on, we guess that Sue bookends were first issued in the first decade of the twentieth century. Many of the Sunbonnet Sue bookends that we see are poorly cast and extensively rusted.  This pair has apparently original paint and in five colors.

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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Art Styles, Literary, Victorian


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“Trecking West” Prairie Schooner Bookends

Photo of Trecking West Bookends

“Trecking West”, Painted Iron. 6″. Circa 1930. Cincinnati Artistic.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, wagons called Prairie Schooners, Covered Wagons, Conestoga Wagons, or the Camels of the Prairies provided the transportation of migrating families, merchants, gold-seekers, and more, across the plains and the mountains of the western United States.  This bookend pair is cast in low relief, but it is busy. The artist has managed to include one covered wagon, two pairs of yoked oxen, two people, and the title – “Trecking West”.  The title honors the American “Trek”, a word borrowed from the South African Boers’ depiction of their migration in the 1830s to the more northerly territories on the African Continent.

Photo of Cincinnati Artistic inscription

Reverse of “Trecking West” bookends showing Cincinnati Artistic and Patent Appl. For inscriptions

The foundry that made “Trecking West” is more than likely Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works Co. This company operated from the late 1890s until August of 1995 when as Artistic Wrought Iron it sold off it’s remaining stock with an advertisement in the “antiques” classifieds of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It was known for it’s quality lamps and other architectural wrought iron items during the 1930s. A lamp from Cincinnati Artistic Wrought Iron Works was appraised by David P. McCarron on the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW in 2010. Click here to reach that appraisal video.

Several Western bookends feature covered wagons. Hubley made at least 2 different versions, one of which is shown below. W.H. Howell’s contribution to the genre is documented in the BOOKEND REVUE, Fig. 194, Seecof & Seecof, and in Gerald P. McBride’s book, A Collector’s Guide to CAST METAL BOOKENDS, on page 108.

Electroformed bronze Covered Wagon bookends signed by Paul Herzel and attributed to Pompeian Bronze can be found on page 48 of BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion, Seecof & Seecof, 2012.

Photo of Covered Wagon bookends

The Covered Wagon. 5.5″, electroformed bronze. Signed Paul Herzel. Attrib. to Pompeian Bronze. Circa 1920.


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Cigar-Store Indian Bookends

Photo of Cigar Store Indian Bookends

Cigar Store Indians: Iron. Height 9.5 in. Inscription: The Strata Group 1988. There is a Strata Group in Baltimore, but they deny issuing these bookends. The foundry remains unknown.

Cigar-store Indians have a long history.  They appeared first in England in the seventeenth century with the arrival of tobacco.  The English knew that the new import of tobacco coming into the country was derived from the tobacco used by American Indians.  They responded by stationing carved wooden Indians outside the new tobacco shops as advertising figures.  In the eighteenth century, life-sized wooden Indians appeared outside American tobacco shops.  Today antique carved wooden Indians are valuable collector’s items and are quite rare.  Wooden Indians are no longer seen outside tobacco shops, and shops like these are nearly gone.

There is, however, one pair of recently-produced bookends to remind collectors and tobacco lovers of the wooden advertising Indians of bygone eras.  Each Indian of this pair presents a handful of cigars because Indians holding cigars were commonplace and were called cigar-store Indians.  The bookends are not carved of wood,  and they are novelties rather than serious art work,  but they are cast in substantial iron, and they are fun conversation pieces  Recent iron bookends are somewhat unusual because relatively few pairs of iron bookends were produced after 1930, and today new bookends are frequently of resin.


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Colonial-Revival Fireplace Bookends

Bookends didn’t exist in colonial times, but fireplaces abounded.  During the 1910s and 1920s a number of bookends depicting fireplaces were produced.  Home decor, including bookends, reflected the burgeoning interest in preserving our past.  Many historic homes were turned into museums and John D. Rockefeller’s preservation of Colonial Williamsburg became a locus of desirable decorations for all home-makers.  An excellent article in The Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Summer 02, by Mary Miley Theobold relates the influence the preservation movement had on home decor.

Iron, height 5.5 inches.  Attributed to Albany Foundry, circa 1920.

Painted Iron bookendsIron, height 5.5 inches. Attributed to Albany Foundry, circa 1920.

In Colonial times, fireplaces were frequently used for both heating and cooking. This colonial-revival pair shows a pot hung over a flaming fire, probably because the large red flames made the bookends quite pretty.  They look warm and comfortable, however lower flames or hot coals were more efficient for cooking.

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Art Styles, Victorian


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Southwest Indian Bookends

Photo of Moki Potter Postcard

Fred Harvey postcard of Hopi (Moki) potter.

Sketch of Indians drilling turquoise

Sketch of Southwestern Indians making turquoise jewelry from “To California Over The Santa Fe Trail”, a 1902 ATSF publication.

Starting in the late 1880s the Santa Fe Railroad opened the American Southwest to the delights of tourism.  Many travelers, passing through the alien landscape, sought to bring home a momento from the local indians selling wares at the rail stops in Albuquerque, Gallup, or Flagstaff.  The Indians of the Southwest made beautiful blankets, baskets and pottery.  These handicrafts are now cherished antiques, but we know only two pairs of early bookends that portray the Indians of the Southwest.

Photo of Indian Potter Bookends

Indian Potter. 4.5”, painted iron, ca.1925. Attributed to Littlestown Foundry

The first set of bookends shows a man painting a large olla.   Historically, in the southwest,  the pots were made by the women and painted by men.  The sculptor of this bookend may have been thinking of today’s highly collectible Maria and Julian Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico, whose polychrome pottery of the 1910s and early 20s is very valuable today.  Check out this YouTube video from the Medicine Man Gallery.

Photo of Bronze Indian Bookends

Indian with Bandana. Could be Navajo, Apache or Pueblo. Bronze, 4.5 inches in height, no mark.

The other pair shows an Indian in profile, with a bandana tied around his head, a familiar image in photos of Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo Indians of the Southwest.

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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Art Styles, Western


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ETERNAL LIGHT PEACE MEMORIAL Bookends.  4 3/4 inches high, 5 1/4 inches wide, weighs 3 1/4 lbs. Iron. Maker unknown.  “Eternal Light Peace Memorial” impressed in base.

ETERNAL LIGHT PEACE MEMORIAL Bookends. 4 3/4 inches high, 5 1/4 inches wide, each weighs 3 1/4 lbs. Iron. Maker unknown. “Eternal Light Peace Memorial” impressed in base.

On July 3, 1938, on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Peace Light Memorial on Oak Hill.  Twenty-five years earlier, on this site, thousands of Civil War veterans, Union and Confederate, shook hands as Woodrow Wilson declared, “the war forgotten.”  The memorial was designed by Paul Philippe Cret (1876 – 1945). The sculpture of 2 women, on the front of the tower, representing North and South led by an eagle on the ground is by Lee Lawrie.

Check out these links to further research the Eternal Peace Light Memorial:

Gettysburg Daily, Jan. 1, 2009 article on the 1938 Dedication of the Eternal Peace Light Memorial.

Gettysburg Daily, Video of Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Ed Guy at the Eternal Peace Light Memorial discussing Lee Lawrie’s style evolution.  You will need to page down to Video #16.

The Eternal Peace Light Memorial is also considered a miniature or souvenir building and is collected as such. Visit The Building Collector website to see these bookends again and view other Gettysburg souvenir buildings.

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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Art Styles, Buildings


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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.


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


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