A beautiful pair of brass spread-wing eagle bookends by Virginia Metalcrafters, stamped 1952. The eagle is shown with its wings fully spread and a laurel branch and bundle of arrows clutched in its left talon. The eagle clutches a Union shield across its breast. The Union shield has a chief with three stars and six stripes completing the design.
The eagle motif in décor and folk art has been widely used throughout our nation's history, most notably as part of our Great Seal. The founders of the United States were fond of comparing their new republic with the Roman Republic, in which eagle imagery, usually the golden eagle, was prominent. On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the design for the Great Seal of the United States depicting a bald eagle grasping 13 arrows and an olive branch with its talons.
When Charles Thomson put together the final design for the Great Seal, he placed a bundle of arrows in the eagle's left (sinister) talon. The official description specifies the bald eagle holding "in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows." The thirteen arrows are tightly aligned – a symbol of "strength in unity" that's found in the traditional cultures everywhere, from the Romans to the Iroquois— in this case a nod to the unity of the original 13 colonies.
William J. Loth founded Virginia Metalcrafters in 1890, under the name Waynesboro Stove Company. The company, which made ornately cast cook stoves, heaters, and accouterments for the kitchen of the period, was born at a time when there were many regional iron foundries and stove makers. As electric appliances took over, most of these small foundries shut down. Waynesboro Stove Company figured out a way to survive. In 1938, it rebranded itself as Virginia Metalcrafters, selling finely crafted brass accessories to the new, sensational American tourist attraction, Colonial Williamsburg.
Through the 20th century, Virginia Metalcrafters did a booming business in tasteful brass goods. The company worked closely with Colonial Williamsburg to produce accurate reproductions of the items that the Colonial Restoration Project was digging up and finding, including trivets, candlesticks, irons and trays. Virginia Metalcrafters was one of only a dozen selected manufacturers to showcase and sell items at the Craft House, a special Colonial gallery near the Williamsburg Inn.
Good condition overall. Light tarnish and scratches, as expected with age and past use. Sturdy brass construction. Stamped and dated on back wing, "Spread Eagle, Copyright 1952, Va. Metalcrafters." Dimensions: 7 1/2" W x 4" H x 2 1/2" D.