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Animated Toy Pistols
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1958

In the period of the 1880’s and 1890’s the shooting of paper caps and firecrackers on July 4th was a very entertaining as well as noisy method of celebration, entertaining in that there existed in those days some very ingenious cap and firecracker shooting devices which had animated figures in connection with the shooting mechanism. Some were a figure in themselves, others were objects, and then in the majority they were in the form of a pistol with the figures or objects on the barrel of the pistol.

One of the most desirable of all the animated toy pistols is the Just Out Pistol made by Ives in the 1885 period. When the trigger is pulled the rooster pecks at the egg and this fires the cap located where the beak of the rooster hits the egg. At the same time the front part of the egg breaks open and the chick’s head pops out. Another very desirable item is the Clown And Mule pistol wherein the mule kicks the clown thereby firing the cap. The mule and clown are on top of the barrel of the pistol. The clown is to the front in a bent knee position. The action is very realistic with the mule rearing up and giving a good kick with his rear legs hitting the clown squarely in the seat of his pants.

Three other very rare animated toy pistols are the Cat, Duck, and Alligator. These three are actually figures in pistol form. The Cat, for example, fires the cap by clamping his extended front paws together. He is in a reclining position and his tail is curved to form the handle, thus the cat is in the form of a pistol. The Duck consists of a curved tree-like formation to form a handle and on top sits the duck. The cap is fired when the duck’s bill snaps together. There is a provided trigger to operate the bill, and here again the overall appearance is that of a pistol. In the case of the Alligator the tail is curved down and this forms the grip. When the trigger is pulled the alligator opens and closes his mouth firing the cap. Meanwhile the figure of a colored boy rocks back and forth on the back of the alligator.

There is quite an interesting group of the animated toy pistols and generally speaking Ives was the largest manufacturer, however, J. & E. Stevens and Kenton Hardware, as well as others, were also in this field. They were made of cast iron and are very similar to the mechanical banks. In the banks a coin was used in the operation and in the pistols a cap was employed. One animated pistol, the Clown On Powder Keg, used a firecracker as a means of operation. Here we have a clown seated on a powder keg, both are on top of the barrel of the pistol. A firecracker was placed in the end of the barrel and when lighted and fired the clown was blown off the keg.

The toy pistols under discussion are quite rare and, unlike the mechanical banks, they were made to be played with outdoors. This, of course, added to the likelihood of their being broken, mislaid, lost, and so on. In this respect on a comparison basis many of the animated toy pistols are more difficult to find than the mechanical banks.

There are, of course, a great variety of toy cast iron pistols but it is the animated type that have the greatest interest and desirability. The pistols under discussion and pictured are from the writer’s collection. At a later date more detail will be given on the other types and kinds of toy pistols. It is a broad field and cannot be covered in detail in any one article. In addition there are other animated types not mentioned and these will also be covered in a future article.

In closing the writer would like to clarify the fact that it is not his intent to confuse animated toy pistols with mechanical banks nor to infer that they are in the same category. However, both groups have a number of things in common. They are cast iron toys, they were made by the same companies, they have animated figures in action, and they employ a lever or trigger to start the action.

The animated pistols shown on the front cover are, starting at the top row going from left to right: Butting Match, Just Out, Surprise Box, Punch & Judy, Bell Ringing Pistol, Duck, Royal Top Spinning Pistol, Humpty Dumpty, Clown On Powder Keg, Sambo, and the Alligator.


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