Complex Reaction


Cast Iron Bookends with Crisp Bas Relief of Western Bison Hunt (LEO Design)



Is it possible for one to have complicated feelings towards a pair of bookends?  Well, it seems, in this case, I do.

The cast iron bookends shown here, are from the Twenties or Thirties.  The workmanship is terrific: handsome bas relief sculpting, ultra-crisp casting, and a beautiful bronzed patina.  The details of the unfolding scene—the distant mountains, the dust rising on the prairie, the scrub brush in the foreground—are conveyed with wonderful precision.  The bookends are an homage to romanticized Western life—handsomely executed and perfect for any American Arts & Crafts interior.

And, yet, I cannot overlook the brutal scene at center: mounted horsemen hunting the regal bison.  I know that the bison have been hunted by Native Americans for centuries.  They were at the center of the Indian economy: food, trade, protection from the elements. Perhaps the Early Americans maintained a correct balance by taking only what they needed.  But something happened in the Nineteenth Century.  Where 60,000,000 bison once roamed The American Plains, only 300 were left after senseless, mass slaughter.  This decimation came at the hands of European American settlers—moving West, Manifest Destiny.

Fortunately, this genocide was stopped in-time.  300 surviving bison at the Turn-of-the-Century have grown into an estimated 25,000 pure-bred bison today.  (Another 450,000 hybrids exist: bison cross-bred with domestic cattle.)  And, since 1900, the bison has grown as an icon of Early American rugged determination (which has increased public support for the restoration of the species).

Click on the photo above to learn more about this most handsome pair of bookends.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248