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RESEARCH BY  - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  HELEN SIKUTA

General Information





"Bank Building" Banks
Period of Popularity
Number of Varieties
Cromwell, Connecticut 
J. & E. Stevens Company

Banks Rendered By The Index of American Design
List of Plates Made By The Index Of American Design

"Bank Building" Banks

Period of Popularity


     As the machine age progressed in the United States, it was only natural that it would be reflected in the toys for children. The mechanical toy became more and more popular. Thus, the simple toy bank became complicated and adorned the homely virtue of thriftiness with a bit of amusement, as shown in the mechanical bank. It had intricate parts which were timed to perform their respective stunts with promptness and precision.
     The origin of the mechanical banks is unknown. They made their appearance not much earlier, if any, than 1850. On the other hand, Walter Dyer thinks that the simple cast iron bank appeared about the time of the Civil War.
     Toy banks of the common sort were patterned after the large square mansions which had been built out of fortunes made by privateering in the War of 1812. Each edifice was surmounted by a cupola and above the blind door was an inscription "Bank" or "Savings Bank".
     The intricate ones were popular in the 1870's and 1880's. The patents go back to 1873. The peak in toy money-savings banks was reached in the last century. They were so seriously made that the parents had a difficult time in extracting a cent.
     There are many varieties of mechanical banks but none reveals the maker's name, although many record the date of patent application.

The American Collector
March, 1940 Andrew Emerine P. 214
Antiques Oct. 1926 Vol. IX P.290
House & Garden Walter Dyer July, 1930 Vol. 58 PP. 48, 49, & 92
Antiques Oct. 1926
Vol. IX PP. 290, 291
House & Garden Walter Dyer July 1930
Vol. 58 PP. 48, 49, & 92
Number of Varieties

Cromwell, Connecticut
     Fifteen years ago (1925) the collecting of toy mechanical banks was not so attracting and very little was known about them nor were they considered of any value. The late Mr. Elmer Rand Jacobs, an outstanding pioneer collector of toy banks, figured out a likely number of varieties and issued a folder stating that there were some sixty-five kinds of banks.
     Then, the late Mr. Norman Sherwood, another collector of mechanical banks, who made a quite serious study of them and did some deep research, came along and discovered some 300 different kinds of mechanical banks. Now it is known that there were 600 or more different varieties in many thousands of banks which were retailed between 1860 - 1885. Some 260 of them had moving parts, strictly speaking, "mechanical banks" and the others were known as "still banks".
     There were several enterprising foundries competing to produce the most attractive and best selling mechanical banks which were sold by the general store as "Toy Banks". Among them, there was the foundry at Cromwell, Connecticut, which around 1870 began to turn out iron banks with moving parts which giggles a penny in various amazing and amusing ways. Within a few years. the Cromwell concern had developed no less than twenty-one distinct patterns of mechanical banks which, from a catalogue of 1873 were priced, wholesale, 75
and $1.00 each. Retail figures ranged from $2.00 to $2.50 each.
Antiques Oct. 1926
Vol. IX

The American Antique Collector
March, 1940
Andrew Emerine



July, 1932
P. 5
Andrew Emerine

J. & E. Stevens Company


Banks Recorded By The Index of American Design
Chinese Poker Player
     The concern mentioned in the above paragraph may have been the J. &  E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. This company is listed in a Reference Directory for 1887 as manufacturing iron toys and hardware. Their credit rating was high, showinh the successful status of the firm.
     In 1893, J. & E. Stevens Company was listed as manufacturers of iron toys, hardware, etc., and they still had an excellent rating.
     The J. & E. Stevens Company was doing quite well in 1899 as they were listed in a machinery trade's Directory of that year as hardware manufacturers with an A rating.
     Recently the Index of American Design has made plates of the Chinese Poker Player, William Tell and Eagle Feeding Young mechanical banks. The original model of the Chinese Poker Player Banks was shown with two frogs on a grassy bank. This type of bank is shown in an illustration in the Antiques Magazine of July, 1932. A description of the mechanism of this bank and other information pertaining to it are to be found in the Index Research Files in the folder designated "TOY SAVINGS BANK".
Farley's Reference Directory of the Machinist' Hardware And Kindred Trades In The U.S.
1887  P. 32
Metal Trades Directory For New England 1893
American Machinery Trades Reference Book
1899  P.30

July, 1932
Vol. XXII, P. 5
Illustration (Photo)
William Tell Bank

Banks Recorded By the Index Of American Design

William Tell Bank
     The turntable mechanism of the William Tell Bank was patented February 2, 1875, by John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts. The patent was filed July 17, 1874. The model described and illustrated for this patent in the United States Patent Records, consisted of a toy safe with a dog which had a moveable head, on top of the safe. If a coin was placed in the mouth of the dog by its excess weight, it would cause the head to turn and the coin, then would drop through the slot into the safe.
     Hall invented another bank with the same idea, patented May 4, 1875. A figure standing in front of a building with a slot next to the figure. A seated figure is shown above the building.
     An outline illustration of a William Tell bank exactly like in all details to those photographic illustrations in the Antiques Magazine and the Index plate, Ill. ME-149m is shown on page 1999. Designs, Official Gazette, U.S. Patent records. This was designed by Russell Frisbie, assignor to the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, filed May 18, 1896. The term of the patent was for seven years.
     The original of the index plate, Ill. ME-149, is a very attractive colored bank with a boy, an apple on his head, standing in front of a castle tower, and William Tell quite dashing in a plumed hat, short cloak and high boots, standing, facing the boy, with a gun or crossbow at his shoulder, taking aim. A penny placed on top of and near the end of the gun or crossbow, when the foot of William Tell is pressed, thus releasing a spring, is shot across an intervening space into a slot in the castle tower. The penny apparently knocks off the apple on the boy's head.
Illustration (Photo) P.5

Oct. 1946
Vol. IX  P. 291

U.S. Patent Records

U.S. Patent Records
Vol. 75
June 23, 1896
Design #25,662
Serial #592,066
P. 1999

Plate, Ill
ME - 149
Index of American Design
Eagle Feeding Her Young Bank

Banks Recorded By The Index Of American Design
Eagle Feeding Her Young

     Ill. ME-148 is a plate of the Eagle Feeding Her Young type of a bank, patented January 23, 1883. It is made of painted cast iron in dull colors, the general tone being a greyish green. The eye of the eagle is of glass. A mother eagle is perched on a rock under which is an unidentified animal peeping from a hole. A coin is put in the eagle's beak, a swinging snake back of the eagle is pressed and with flapping wings of the eagle, the coin falls through a slot in the nest while the baby birds chirp and flat their wings.
     This bank was patented by Charles M. Henn of Chicago, Illinois. There was no model made. It was an improvement in mechanical toy banks. The object of the invention was to make the toy bank as attractive as possible at small cost. The nature of the invention consists of mechanism for opening the beak of a bird to place therein money and closing it to hold the money until it is to be dropped into the bank, and mechanism for causing wings of the bird to flap and cause the beaks of the younger birds below the larger one to open in imitation of their being fed; and further, of mechanism for making a noise or sound which shall be that in imitation of young birds.
     Patented feature for above-mentioned bank consists of circular beveled plate having a square keyhole, through its center and a crossbar upon its inner side, the ends of which extend beyond the circumference forming two teeth or flanges. A corresponding beveled opening is made in the bottom of the box for removing the money. Upon the inner side and corresponding with said opening are two inclined planes. If now the plate be placed into said opening and turned by means of a key made for that purpose, the teeth will operate upon the inclines in form of a screw and firmly close said opening. To remove the money, the process is reversed and the plate is removed.
     A variation of the William Tell design is shown in the bank with a kneeling Indian, aiming a gun at a bear which obligingly standing directly in front of the Indian. The penny is shot from the gun in the same manner as in William Tell bank into the chest of the bear while the Bear's lower jaw trembles. This bank was patented January 17, 1888.
Plate, Ill.
ME - 148
Index of American Design
Specs. & Dwgs.
U.S. Patent
Jan. 23, 1883
P. 1697


NAME                                          PATENT NO.
The Banker                                  June 25, 1872
Tammany Bank                          Dec. 23, 1878
Uncle Sam Bank                         June 8, 1886
Bank With Walking Dog            
Jumping Dog Bank
Chinese Poker Player                Feb. 2, 1875
Bank                                            Aug. 8, 1882
Eagle Feeding Her Young      Jan. 23, 1883
William Tell Bank                    June 23, 1896
Banker With Tray Painted Red, Blue, Yellow
Painted Yellow, Blue
Painted Red, White And Blue
Dog and House; Very Fine Cast Iron With Mechanical Revolving Turntable
Barrel, Clown With Hoop and trick Dog
Chinaman in Blue Trousers, Black & Slippers, Reclining on Log Covered With a Blue Drape edged With Yellow Fringe; a Spread of Cards In His Hand; Gray Rabbit.
Eagle With Two Eaglets In Nest
William Tell Aiming His Gun At Apple On Boy's Head Who Is Standing In Front Of A Castle

Oct. 1926, Vol. IX
Article-Willard Emerson Keyes
Illustration (Photo) - Collection of David
Art Room - Chicago Public Library

July 1932, Vol. XXII
Article - Andrew Emerine
Illustration (Photo) - Collection of Andrew
     Emerine, Fostoria, Ohio
Art Room - Chicago Library

House and Garden
July 1930, Vol. 58
Article - Walter Dyer
Conde Nast, Pub.
Greenwich, Connecticut
Chicago Public Library

Official Gazette
U.S. Patent Office
Vol. 75, June 23, 1896
Design #25,662
Patent Room - Chicago Library

Specs. & Dwgs. of Patents
U.S. Patent Office
Feb. 2, 1875
Spec. 21, Dwg. 7 - #159,263
Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C.

American Machinery Trades Reference Book
 Thomas Publishing Company
John Crerar Library

Metal Trades Directory for New England
Price & Lee Company, Pup.
New Haven, Connecticut - 1893
John Crerar Library

Farley's Reference Directory of the
    Machinists' Hardware & Kindred
    Trades in the United States
A. C. Farley & Co., Ltd. Pub.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Specs. Dwgs, of Patents
U.S. Patent Office
Jan. 23, 1883
#271, 200
Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C.

The American Antique Collector
March, 1940
Pub. Mr. Laidacker
Article by Andrew Emerine
Scranton, Pennsylvania

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