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Baby Elephant Bank — Unlocks At X O’Clock
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - June, 1956

56-06.JPG (29344 bytes)

As we reach No. 46 in our listing of the mechanical banks we again come to Charles Bailey and another of his unusual intriguing specimens, namely the Baby Elephant Bank, Unlocks At X O’Clock. This is not only an attractive little bank with unusual action, but also quite rare and hard to find.

The bank was designed and manufactured by Charles Bailey in his shop in Cobalt, Connecticut. This was before he went with the Stevens Company and, of course, these earlier banks that he manufactured on his own are very desirable items. He patented the Baby Elephant Bank November 16, 1880 under No. 234,518. This bank, like in the Chinaman In Boat, is evidence of his meticulous fine pattern work and, like the Chinaman In Boat and Springing Cat, it is made of lead. It also has a wood base plate similar to the Springing Cat.

Bailey must have spent endless hours on the fine detailed work on the four-sided base, top plate, and figures on this bank. On both front and back plate of the bank there is embossed the figure of an elephant holding a baby in his trunk. Right beneath the baby is the head and open mouth of an alligator or crocodile. The elephant is just ready to drop the baby into the open jaws of the ferocious crocodile. In balloon outline type wording, such as used in old cartoons, the baby is saying ‘Oh If I Had Only Put Some Money In The Bank.’ In back of the elephant is a large floral type plant. The two end base plates show an embossed urn containing foliage. The top of the base is also ornately etched. Along one side edge is the wording ‘Baby Elephant Bank.’ Along the opposite side edge is ‘Unlocks At X O’Clock.’ A clock face with Roman numerals is on one end of the top and the hour and minute hands are in one movable unit. A small elephant is attached to the top at the other end as can be seen in the picture. On one side of the elephant is the word ‘Baby’ and on the other side appears ‘Bout 1.’ The tongue and tail of the elephant is a single unit and moves back and forth a short distance through the body of the elephant. In the front legs of the elephant there is a flat outlined piece that fits into a corresponding outlined recess in the top plate. This piece is decorated on the top side, and along the bottom edge has the date November 16, 1880 in very small figures. On the underside of this piece there appears the flat figure of a baby. This baby pivots in the front legs of the elephant and is fastened by means of a brass nail. The hind legs of the elephant also pivot on the base and are fastened the same way. A point of interest is the use of steel wood screws in holding the bank together. Two wood screws that fasten parallel into the side plates hold the four-part base and top together. A single wood screw holds the wood base in place by screwing into the top plate. The elephant is also held together by a single small wood screw. This method of fastening the bank together by using wood screws was also employed by Bailey in making the Chinaman In Boat.

The bank shown is in nice condition and was obtained by the writer through the good help of an antique dealer friend located in Mid-West. His wishes to remain anonymous in this case are recognized as he did not want to offend any of his other bank collector friends and customers. This type of thing has been happening in the bank collecting field more and more since certain banks have become harder and harder to find. This is also true of rarities in other fields of collecting, such as stamps, etc.

The bank is painted as follows: The bottom wood baseplate has yellow edgings. The four sides of the base are a transparent blue, and the entire top is silver. The elephant is a dark gray with red blanket and tongue. The flat figure of the baby has some red clothing on it and the balance is the same transparent blue as the base with the exception of the face, which is silver color with red lips.

To operate the bank the elephant is pushed forward and down onto the base. The back part of the flat baby figure hooks under a small brass nail in the base and neatly fits into the formed recess. The small extended piece at the top of the head fits under a niched circular plate that is fastened to the clock hands on the underside of the top base. The hands must be set at X O’Clock in performing the above operation and they are then moved to another position. When the hands are moved back to X O’Clock the elephant rears on its hind legs to the position shown in the picture. At the same time the baby is raised into position. The tail of the elephant comes in contact with the end plate and this moves the tongue forward. This may have been intended to push the baby forward but it usually falls forward anyway. With the elephant and figure in the position shown in the picture a coin slot is exposed that runs the length of the recessed section. Into this slot coins are dropped at will and after so doing the bank is reset for action.

A word or two about the baby and wording "Bout 1’ is in order. This so-called baby is a rather grotesque figure to represent a baby and the same can be said for the figure held in the elephant’s trunk on each side plate. However, Bailey in the patent papers covering this bank actually calls the figure a baby. Bailey obviously made this figure grotesque for his own reasons. As to the wording ‘Bout 1’, this possibly refers to the baby saving money as being No. 1 in importance early in life. In not saving money, the baby is thrown to the crocodiles. However, the baby is saved by operating the bank to insert money, as the elephant pulls the baby back up. The ‘Bout,’ of course, being between the baby and the elephant. Bailey apparently felt the object lesson of his bank, with its dire threat, would encourage children to save their money.

The Baby Elephant Bank is a fine hard item to add to a collection and only six or seven specimens are known to exist in some of the larger collections today. It may be of interest to note that the action in exposing the coin slot is somewhat similar to the New Bank, U.S. Bank, and Cupola Bank. The action of these four banks have in common the end result of exposing the coin slot for use.

 

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