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.
The Puritan. Gray Metal, Height 9.5 inches, circa 1924. Jennings Brothers, JB Shopmark.
The Puritan. Bronze. Height 31 inches. American Art Museum, Smithsonian.
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.