Bob Swisher: Bookends likely made at campus foundry

The cast iron bookends you see with this story were purchased recently at an auction just south of Monticello.

The successful bidder was Mike Richards, a Monticello-area resident. He is a well-known artist-craftsman in both glass and wood, but his real claim to fame is his wife, Sandy Mason, who shares this page with me every Saturday morning.

The bookends are small and heavy. They are 4 inches tall and wide and are solid cast iron. The Indian on the face is a warrior with three feathers in profile with the word "ILLINI" to the right of the face. The front base is inscribed with the word ILLINOIS.

The lettering on the back is four lines, which say:

Shop

Laboratories

La Force Bailey

Sculpt.-1923

I am just guessing that they were cast at the University of Illinois foundry. The late Jim Leach told me that he was sure he had seen an image of an Indian with three feathers in profile on a doorknob. Maybe he was mistaken and it was on bookends instead.

La Force Bailey was born in 1893 and died in Urbana in 1962. He studied under Charles Hawthorne in the early 1920s while at the UI and later became known as a watercolorist. He won numerous awards in the 1934-36 era and did a large mural at the 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair.

I have seen two different UI doorknobs, and they are valued at about $250 a pair. To the best of my knowledge, there were two runs of university andirons, and Mr. Leach was pretty sure they only cast 24 pair each time. They have sold locally for about $200 a set.

Mr. Leach made 144 of the small cast Assembly Halls for either the Rotary Club or the Kiwanis Club — I do not remember which — and they sell for about $50.

This is the first time that I have seen these bookends. Warman's Antique Guide quotes them in the $100-$200 range.

Good antiquing!

Bob Swisher has been a collector since he was a child. Questions or comments can be sent via email to aacanabs@soltec.net.

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