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Bird on the Roof Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - June, 1960

60-06.JPG (19778 bytes)A bank that has caused some conjecture over the years as to what it actually represents is our choice as No. 85 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank is the Bird On The Roof and for years the building part of the bank was thought to represent a church and the bird a dove of peace. This, however, is not the original intent of the patentee and designer of the bank.

The bank was patented March 5, 1878 by Elisha Stevens of Cromwell, Conn. The fact that Elisha Stevens himself designed and patented the bank adds distinction to the Bird On The Roof since he was a member of the famous Stevens family and the J. & E. Stevens Company who were the outstanding manufacturers of mechanical banks. Quoting from Mr. Stevens’ patent papers clarifies the original intent of his representation in this bank.

"The main portion or body of the bank is made to represent a cottage having a gable roof. Said body may be ornamented with windows of Gothic or other shape. At or near one end of the ridge of the roof of such cottage-like figure is an ornamental chimney. Projecting also from the ridge of the roof and along it, is an ornamental ridge-like strip designed to form an ornamental pedestal on which a bird having its head directed toward and over the chimney is mounted."

This quoted information is conclusive as to the fact that the building is not a church and the bird is just a bird of no particular designation. Of interest too is the fact that the Bird On The Roof as manufactured is identical to the drawings in the original patent papers.

The bank shown is in fine original condition and was obtained some years ago by the writer from an Ohio antique dealer. The overall effect of the paint on the bank gives the appearance of being iridescent. The bird is silver with a yellow tail and beak. The wings and head feathers are a purple color. The chimney is yellow and the roof is purple. The roof, by the way, is particularly attractive with its graceful curving slope and the well defined shingles. The sides of the building are silver outlined in purple and the windows are outlined in yellow.

To operate the bank a coin is placed as shown in the picture. Then the lever under the bird’s tail is pressed. The head and forward part of the bird drops down and the beak hits on the edge of the chimney. This causes the coin to fall into the chimney. When the bird tilts down its tail raises up, and to re-set the bank for action the tail is pressed down and the bird and the lever snap into position. The bird works more or less on a cantilever arrangement.

The Bird On The Roof is an early, attractive bank and extremely difficult to find in complete original condition with no repairs. The bank is entirely different than any of the other mechanical banks and is unique in both action and appearance. It makes a nice addition to a collection.


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