Cast-iron doorstops reached their height from about 1910 through 1940. Prolific firms included the Albany Foundry Co., in Albany, N.Y.; the Hubley Manufacturing Co., in Lancaster, Pa.; and Bradley & Hubbard, in Meriden, Conn.
Manufacturers first carved a 3D model from wood or hammered a prototype from metal. The unpainted model was pressed into fine, compacted sand, to create the mold. Molten iron was then poured into the mold. After the metal had cooled, the form was removed from the mold, its rough edges filed, and its surfaces smoothed in preparation for painting.
Decorators applied a base coat (usually white or cream but sometimes black) to the doorstop, then colorists used a variety of hues to highlight important details, usually only on the side that would face toward the room. Many doorstops bear identical color schemes, suggesting that decorators may have copied a model finished by a master artisan.
Determining a cast iron doorstop's date can be difficult, as popular themes (sailing ships, florals, and dogs) remained in production for decades. Costumes can sometimes provide clues, as can stylistic details such as Art Deco motifs from the 1930's. On the whole, though, enthusiasts concern themselves less with exact dates than they do with condition and rarity.
More floral doorstops seem to have been produced than those in any other category. Vibrant colors and reasonable price tags make floral doorstops popular with collectors today. Common styles can still be found in the $100 to $150 range, although rare models with well-preserved finishes can command higher prices.
Popular subjects included:
Crossover collecting also plays a significant role in the pricing of antique cast iron doorstops. Individuals who collect golf-related memorabilia, hunting scenes, or Black Americana, for example, have pushed up prices on doorstops that fall within their fields of interest.
Most cast iron doorstops ranged in height from 6 to 14 inches and could weigh as much as eight pounds. Over the years, however, weight was reduced in cost-cutting efforts. Comparing weight is one way collectors can approximate the production date of an antique doorstop.
Cast-iron bookends are sometimes mistaken for doorstops, owing to their similar styling. In general, bookends prove too light to prop open a heavy door. Doorstops also stand taller than the typical bookend (which commonly stands no more than six inches) and are molded in the round whereas a bookend will often feature one flat side.
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