The Cardinal Book Prop

Yesterday, to my joy and amazement, I received a comment here from a grandson of my great-granduncle Charles Fischer, who came with his parents and seven siblings to the U.S. at age 14 from Györke, Hungary (now Ďurkov, Slovakia) and became a spring manufacturer and inventor. I have written a few pieces about Charles Fischer’s inventions; I had no idea who the readers would be. I was moved to hear from someone who remembered him and admired his work—a relative, no less. That was a great day in this blog’s life and my own.

Speaking of the inventions, the other day I received a Cardinal Book Prop with the original box! I found it on Ebay. I already have two book props made by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., but the box is extremely rare, and this third book prop is in glistening condition.

The pictures on the front of box illustrate just how handy this book prop is. But the description on the back is at least as enticing (and suggests that someone was having fun):

Read With Your Hands Free

The Cardinal Book Prop leaves both hands free while you read. It holds your book open, supports its weight and keeps your place. It can be used in any position anywhere. The flexible knee clamp enables you to recline in an easy chair with your book held in position, and your hands free to smoke, eat, write or rest.

For Reading in Bed

The Cardinal Book Prop relieves your hands of the tiring weight when reading in bed. Also enables you to keep your arms and shoulders covered. A necessity in times of illness.

For Sketching

The Cardinal Book Prop is ideal for both indoor and outdoor sketching. It holds the sheet firmly and may be adjusted to any angle. It is transformed to a perfect tracing outfit by merely placing a light in back of it.

On the Table

The Cardinal Book Prop will hold your book or newspaper on the table at any angle. It also holds your place leaving your hands free to work. It is indispensable for holding cook books and reference books.


The Cardinal Book Prop makes outdoor reading more comfortable. It holds your book open and prevents the pages from blowing over. A necessity for through comfort at country, seashore or on steamer deck.

Will Hold Any Size Book, Magazine or Sheet Music

The Cardinal Book Prop is fully adjustable and will hold any normal size book, in both vertical and horizontal position and by extending its auxiliary arms it holds large magazines and sheet music on the piano. It is adjustable to any height or angle, thus enabling you to sit perfectly erect while reading, sketching or playing.

Carry It With You

The Cardinal Book Prop is made of lightweight metal, has no sharp edges and is exceptionally compact. It folds into small space and is easily carried along.

Made in Colors

The Cardinal Book Prop is finished in a number of pleasing colors and will match your furniture and surroundings.

Your choice of BLACK – GREEN – MAHOGANY

Patented and M’f’d by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co., Brooklyn, N.Y.

cardinal-book-prop-side-viewIndeed, the book prop can be used for all these things. It is adjustable (thanks to the springs and other parts) and has two different ways of holding the pages open (a holder at the base and the auxiliary arms). I have used it with books large and small, thick and thin. I haven’t yet used it on a steamer deck but hope to do so if the occasion arises.

What I really enjoy is the sense of practical possibility. If you have a versatile device, why not find ways to use it on land and sea, indoors and outdoors, with music, sketching, reading, and cooking? Then the people who purchase these props can start thinking of even more uses. For instance, it can be handy if you are learning your lines for a play (you can make hand gestures as you learn, since you aren’t holding the script), if you are solving a math problem from a book (you can prop the book right in front of your notebook, for easy glancing back and forth between the two), or if you wish to read something in an unfamiliar language (you can prop it up on your knee and then take the dictionary in your hands).

That’s what I enjoy about inventions, especially these. They don’t just solve a problem; they get you to think about your daily life and materials in new and different ways.

Update: Please see the wonderful comment from Robert Charles Fischer, Charles Fischer’s grandson.

Leave a comment


  1. The knee clamp concept in my Grandfather’s
    Book Prop was explained to me as being derived from the bombardier equipment on those planes during actual missions. Whileven
    He was scoping the bombing target, he needed a map to confirm the.location of.his
    He placed the map in a flat easel resting on
    One knee, “clamped” that easel on his knee
    So it could be a free floating reference on the
    mission which permitted him incredible ease
    In pinpointing the target. Any number of maps
    could be laid on the easel at any time.
    Ithe makes,me smile to imagine some bombadier’s grandnmother, after the war,
    whipping up.batches of chocolate chips
    Using a bombing apparatus to hold her
    Cookie recipe in place.

    • Thank you for this comment, which reads like a poem and gives me a new understanding of the Book Prop!

      Three thoughts come to mind.

      First, it strikes me how much is lost if we do not know history; someone could imagine all sorts of uses for the Book Prop but would not easily guess that it was derived from bombadier equipment.

      Second, I am reminded of the scene in Aristophanes’ comedy Peace where Trygaeus, having flown on the back of a beetle up to the house of the gods to unearth Peace, and having returned home with her, is now establishing a peacetime economy. The makers and sellers of war implements complain that he has put them out of business; Trygaeus proposes new uses for the merchandise. (In the meantime, the makers of peacetime implements are rejoicing over their new prosperity.)

      Third, I am grateful for these delightful and moving words and this information.

    • Kody Littlefield

       /  March 15, 2021

      I have the black one and had no idea that I could put it in hands free mode on my leg. How incredibly clever and utilitarian. It is such a cool device that I use and treasure and will pass it along to my children.

  2. Denise LeBlanc

     /  January 13, 2020

    I have a Cardinal Book Prop and box that I bought several years ago. The green prop is in excellent condition, the box shows use, but all the text as you list above is there. It is so great to learn about Charles Fischer and the ‘story behind’ its invention! Thanks!

    • Thank you for commenting! I am glad to know that the Cardinal Book Prop is still finding its way into people’s homes and lives.

  3. Michael Smith

     /  March 29, 2020

    I have my Dad’s. He had it on his kitchen table, usually with a TV Guide on it.
    It holds my iPad.

    • That is great to know! Thank you for commenting. TV guides, iPads… the book prop’s versatility just grows and grows.

  1. On Inconvenience | Take Away the Takeaway
  2. My Hungarian Jewish Great-Grandfather | Take Away the Takeaway

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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