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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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Forest Nymph or Dryad Bookends

Spring is here! These bookends are perfect for Spring.

Wood Nymph and Vase Bookends.  Grey metal and glass.  Height 7.5 inches without the vases.  Unmarked.  Early twentieth century.

Each member of this pair is a lovely wood nymph embracing a removable glass bud vase.  Her upswept hair and her softly draped costume add to the picture of a minor goddess or dryad. She stands on a forest hummock next to a tree stump that holds the vase. There is a red flower on the side of the stump that could be a Red Trillium.  The vases are not important in supporting books. The ladies support the books, but the vases are held away from the books.

Side View of Wood Nymph Bookends. The bud vases are in a flower form and quite heavy.

These bookends are quite Victorian in appearance and are reminiscent of the use of nymphs and fairies in the Arts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Nymphs were popular in poetry, prints, stories, and music.  Jean Sibelius composed and presented in 1895 “The Wood Nymph”, a tone poem based on Viktor Rydberg’s 1882 poem of the same name. An 1872 woodcut,”Die Quelle” or The Source, by the German artist, Kurt von Rozinsky is shown below. This same woodcut was featured in a 1910 edition of “The Bible and Its Story taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons”, a popular book in the United States.

“Die Quelle”. Woodcut by German artist Kurt von Rozinsky. 1872

A Wood Nymph with a vase displaying flowers from the local byways would have been a delightful addition to a 1910 decor.

 

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Indian Encampment Bookends

Indian Encampment:  Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

Indian Encampment:  Electroformed Bronze.  Height 5.25 inches. Circa 1910.  Shopmark:  AC with a line between the two letters, a copyright sign and the number 108.

We saw this pair recently and were very surprised.  We thought we had already seen all the Indian bookends, but this pair was new to us.  It is probably very rare.

An Indian holding his pipe sits with his back against a large tree trunk, with a fire circle at his feet.  Two tipis are in the background.  The scene is enclosed in an art-nouveau or aesthetic style frame. It has the feel of a George Caitlin painting.

Photo of Bookend Shopmark

Shopmark on reverse of Indian Encampment Bookends. Foundry has not been identified.

Tipis were houses for the plains Indians.  Each tipi was constructed from supporting poles, tied at the top to give a cone shape and covered with tanned bison hides.  A tipi could be disassembled and carted away, pulled by dogs or horses.  Portability was very important because these people were nomadic and followed the herds of bison across the plains. The tipi on the bookends is representative of what artists in the early 20th century thought tipis looked like, it does not show flaps for a smoke hole and is therefore referred to as a stylized cone according to the author of “Historic Photos of Tipis” website.

Photo of Indian and Tipi

Indian and Tipi with additional Tipis in background.

 

 

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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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Child Writing Bookends

Photo of Child Writing in Book

Child Writing:  Gray metal, Height 5.5 inches, weight 5 pounds per pair, Unmarked.  Attributed to Ronson, circa 1915

There are many bookends that feature children, but we have not seen this pair before. A very young child is sitting on a book with legs outstretched and two books on her lap. The child is writing or drawing on the uppermost  book. There are number of similar pairs that were produced by a variety of foundries, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, in which a young child is reading.

We attribute this pair to Ronson because of the gold and maroon colors and the sturdy construction, with pieces made in molds and then soldered together.  The very bottom of each bookend is heavy gauge metal with only a relatively small, square opening. This bottom design is unique and suggests very early bookends.  The pair is unmarked but could have had a company label early on.

Photo of Child Writing Bookends base

Underside of Child Writing Bookends

These bookends are obviously Victorian in style.  The Victorians had great concern for family and children and these bookends certainly celebrate children.  The Victorian era ended with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, but the Victorian style persisted in the early decades of the 20th century in America and still has a following here today.

Here are some further examples of this genre from our book, BOOKENDS Objects of Art and Fashion, Schiffer Publishing 2012.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Literary, Victorian

 

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Pan or Faun or Demi-God Bookends

Photo of Pan Bookends

Mythological Creature:  Grey metal.  7 inches.  Inscribed with the name of the listed artist Louise Wilder (1898-?), twentieth century, foundry unknown.

This bookend figure is a child, but It has the hairy hoofed legs of a goat, tall pointed ears, a small tail, the beginnings of horns on its forehead and it is playing two flutes.  It is a juvenile Pan, satyr or faun –  part human, part goat.  These are ugly, libidinous creatures when grown.  Pan was a proper Greek God of nature, shepherds, fertility, sexuality and music, satyrs were similar in looks and activities, but less than Gods, and fauns were later Roman versions, eventually combining them into a single entity. These particular bookends are probably from the 1920s. This was during a time when “there was an astonishing resurgence of interest in the Pan motif.” Patricia Merivale, author of Pan the Goat-God: His Myth in Modern Times, Harvard University Press, 1969, lists works, from the 1890s to 1926, of poetry, novels, children’s books where Pan is part of the narrative, not the least of those being J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In The Willows.

The artist who rendered this Pan version was a well-known sculptor of children from the sidewalks of New York during the 1920s, Louise Hibbard Wilder. She lost her hearing when she was a young girl. Following an article about her, as a deaf artist, in Time Magazine in September 1928, a number of articles about Louise were published in newspapers across the United States. One such article in The Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) in December 1928, quotes her, “Artists, in addition to imagination and technical skill, need extreme concentration on their work. My deafness has given me more chance more than most artists have for this concentration. Being deaf I have learned to work without interruption.”

Photo of Daily Times Article

“The Daily Times, A Clean Newsy Newspaper For the Home”, Beaver, PA. Monday, October 1, 1928.

In late 1931, Louise and her husband, Bert Wilder, also an artist and sculptor, suffered the fate of many artists during the depression. The New York Times published an article entitiled, ARTIST COUPLE FACE EVICTION WITH BABY, attributing their destitution to portrait and commission fees that could not be collected. Shortly thereafter the Associated Press distributed a story of the response of art collectors to their plight. Commissions were paid, bronzes were bought. And from this date the artist couple seem to disappear – We didn’t manage to find anymore information.

Louise Hibbard Wilder received her art training in the free day classes at Cooper Union. She won a number of prizes for her work. One of her best known works is “The Tiny Turtle”, a bronze figure of a child holding a tiny turtle, which was a popular sculpture for garden fountains (I have been unable to find a picture). She is known to have works cast by the Roman Bronze Works and the Brook Art Bronze Co. of Brooklyn, NY. The bookends pictured above do not have a foundry identification.

 

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Chuck De Costa: Bookend Collector Extraordinaire

 

Chuck De Costa was a major player in the world of bookend collectors.  He amassed a great collection of beautiful and significant bookends, somewhere north of 2400 pairs.  He was generous in sharing his collection and knowledge with other collectors.  He was the author of the Collector’s Encyclopedia of Bookends.  The following announcement was made on his Antique Bookend Collection website:

“It is with sadness that I must report that Chuck De Costa, the Antiques Bookend Collector passed away on December 4, 2015. This site will remain for a short time to honor his love and knowledge of Antique Bookends. This site has been developed to share with other antique bookend collectors & enthusiasts. Whatever your favorites might be we hope that you enjoy this website and share it with your friends.”

As a tribute to Chuck we hope you all will take time to visit the site before it is taken down.

Chuck De Costa’s Antique Bookend Collection

 

 

 

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