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Reclining Chinaman Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - December, 1959

59-12.JPG (22880 bytes)

A mechanical bank that is another anti-Chinese item is our choice as No. 79 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This is the Reclining Chinaman and it is a very appropriately named, attractive mechanical bank. In referring to the bank as another anti-Chinese item it is well to point out that two other mechanical banks with this theme have previously appeared in the series of articles. The first of these was the rare Chinaman In Boat (HOBBIES, May, 1955), and please refer to this article for coverage on the reasons for anti-Chinese feeling that existed in the period. The second mechanical bank with the same theme was Shoot That Hat Bank (HOBBIES, November, 1957).

The Reclining Chinaman was patented by James H. Bowen of Philadelphia, Pa., August 8, 1882, and manufactured by the J. &. E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. In this case the patent papers covering the bank are of particular interest since they also apply to the Frog Bank and, as a matter of fact, the drawings accompanying the papers picture the Frog Bank. However, the Reclining Chinaman and the Frog Bank have the same type operating mechanism and this is the salient feature covered in the patent. The following quote from the papers bears out the fact of the original intent of the patent being used to cover more than one type mechanical bank. "The savings bank herein described may be made in the image of living beings of any kind and character or of any other desired shape." Also covered is the fact that the coin receiving arrangement may be in a different form or shape. In any event, it is a little unusual to have two different mechanical banks covered by the same patent papers.

The bank shown is in fine original condition and was added to the writer’s collection some years ago through the good help of a New England antique dealer. The paint is in an unusually nice state of preservation. The log is a reddish brown and the mouse coming out of the end of this log is gray with beady black eyes. The Chinaman has a dark purple smock, blue trousers, white socks, and black shoes with white soles. The arms, hands, and face of the Chinaman are flesh color and he has black hair with a long black queue. The drapery effect on which his head rests is blue with yellow fringe. In his right hand are five playing cards with reddish brown backs. From the front, when exposed, only four cards show. These are the respective aces and they have white backgrounds with the spade and club in black and the diamond and heart in red.

To operate the bank a coin is placed in the pocket section of the Chinaman’s smock, then a lever located in the right end of the log is depressed. Simultaneously the left arm raises the left hand to the face as the right arm moves forward exposing the hand of cards. The hands are made to be movable and they fall into their respective positions very realistically. As the action takes place the coin automatically drops through the pocket into the bank.

As an anti-Chinese item the object lesson behind the above mentioned action simply was the fact that the Chinaman holds all the aces and couldn’t lose. As previously mentioned, it is a very attractive bank with realistic action and makes a nice addition to a collection.


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