We are spending the last few days of August celebrating the "Dog Days of Summer." Enjoy our "Parade of Dogs" as we trot towards the cooler days of September.
At the time that these cast iron bookends were made, in the 1920's, one of Hollywood's biggest celebrities was Rin Tin Tin, a German Shepherd dog who starred in 27 films, making him a world-famous star. The male German Shepherd had been rescued on a French WWI battlefield by American soldier Lee Duncan. Back in The States, Duncan found work for his new pet whose career took-off—simultaneously making the German Shepherd breed very popular in America.
In the Nineteenth Century, German farmers would selectively breed dogs for herding sheep. They bred for strength, speed, intelligence, a keen sense of smell, and enough aggressiveness to protect the flock from outside predators. Each village had developed a different type of dog, each of which varied substantially in terms of ability and appearance. Dresden dog breeder, Max von Stephanitz (1864-1936), studied these different animals, eventually purchasing what he thought were the best examples (specifically for sheep herding). He selectively bred his dogs with other traditional herding dogs until he achieved what he considered the perfect specimen (c. 1899). Von Stephanitz standardized and established the official traits to which the breed should aspire. He named the dog the Deutscher Schäferhund (literally "German Shepherd Hound"). Soon people were calling the breed Altdeutsche Schäferhunde ("Old German Herding Dogs"). In the 20th Century, as Germany became more industrialized (and farming less common) the dogs began to be trained for other work: for disability assistance, police & military work, search & rescue missions, and as watchdogs and family pets. During the Twenties, German Shepherds were the most popular dog breed in America. Interestingly, after World War One (during which the breed was exploding in popularity), the name German Shepherd was sometimes replaced (mostly in England) with the name Alsatian—a reference to the German-influenced (but French) region which lies along the far Eastern edges of France. Certain dog lovers did not want their beloved breed to be associated with Germany, such was the anti-German sentiment during (and after) World Wars One and Two. This name continues to be used in England; in America, "German Shepherd" is more commonly used.
This handsome pair of cast iron bookends were made in the Twenties. They are finished with an aged brassy-bronze patina. These Shepherds stand ready to guard (and hold-up) your collection of precious tomes. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.
More handsome "Dog Days" ideas tomorrow.
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 (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248