|ANTIQUES Magazine, March 1941 — THE EDITOR'S
For Indian Pennies
As indicated by the popularity of the current exhibition at the
Museum of Modern Art, this country appears to be gaining a new
appreciation of the noble redskin and his contribution to culture.
Further to stimulate this laudable development, the Attic takes delight
in presenting an example of aboriginal art in the collection of H. L.
Durrell of San Diego, California (Fig. 1). In this choice bit of early
Americana, Chief Big Moon sits stoical and patient at the entrance of
his tepee. No war whoop will rouse him to action; no bit of wampum will
kindle a gleam in his metallic eye. But judicious application of a
copper penny — an Indian penny, by all means — will cause a shift in the
scene. Though Chief Big Moon still remains unmoved, before him a big
frog pops up from a little puddle, and in the latter the penny is
It is said that the symbolism of American Indian art is frequently
difficult to interpret. Many of the motives have become, though
countless generations, stylized beyond recognition, and their meaning is
half-forgotten even by those who perpetuate them.
In the case of the rare curiosity here illustrated, surely it will
take a student with outworn customs of the white man, to grasp its full
significance. The Attic can only suggest that the cryptic signs along
its base may be Indian translation of the wise old saying, "A penny
saved is a penny earned!"
Fig. 1 — Expectation and realization. Mechanical toy bank of the latter
part of the nineteenth century. Concerning the earliest of these penny
banks, an article by Blair Hull appears elsewhere in this issue. From
the collection of H. L. Durrell