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Squirrel & Tree Stump Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1960

60-07.JPG (18554 bytes)

Thriftiness and saving are appropriately represented in the mechanical bank of our choice as No. 86 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. Certainly a squirrel in the act of storing an acorn in a tree stump leaves little to be desired as an outstanding example of saving and looking ahead to one’s future. Therefore, the Squirrel And Tree Stump is a particularly pleasing mechanical bank from the standpoint of its very desirable theme, realistic representation, and accurate operation. Of course, there are other mechanical banks such as the Bank Teller Bank (HOBBIES, February, 1953) which are also completely representative of saving in their general appearance and operation. Certainly nothing could better illustrate saving than a bank teller depositing your offered coins, which is the operation of the Bank Teller Bank. However, the Squirrel And Tree Stump would have a definite appeal to children and at the same time well point out the object lesson of saving one’s money. With this thought we must always keep in mind the fact that basically speaking all mechanical banks were made to encourage children to save their coins and the various actions and operations involved were all invented to lead to the habit of saving money.

The Squirrel And Tree Stump was designed and patented by Robert E. Turnbull of New Britain, Conn., June 28, 1881. He assigned the patent to the Mechanical Novelty Works, also of New Britain. Mr. Turnbull carefully protected his design from all angles and the bank as actually produced is identical to the drawings in the patent papers. One feature was protected in two ways and this had to do with the operating lever. In addition to the lever as actually made he had a provision for a lever protruding from the rear of the bank which could be pulled in order to operate the squirrel. The bank was made by the Mechanical Novelty Works and Mr. Turnbull was one of the owners of this company. In addition to the Squirrel And Tree Stump this concern made a number of other mechanical banks including the very desirable Initiating Bank First Degree (HOBBIES, November, 1952).

A point of interest has to do with the fact that the Squirrel And Tree Stump has no markings or patent dates on the bank itself. As a rule where a bank was patented the date of patent was usually inscribed on the underside of the base of the bank. There are several of the mechanical banks, however, which are exceptions to this rule and the Squirrel And Tree Stump is in this category. The Monkey Bank (HOBBIES, April, 1958) is another example. There are cases where a bank will bear the inscription "Pat. Appl’d For" and this indicates that the bank was manufactured before the final patent papers were issued. At a later date, after issue of patent, the bank was then produced with the patent date shown. This is not infallible, however, as some banks bore the same inscription, "Pat. Appl’d. For," throughout their period of manufacture.

The Squirrel And Tree Stump shown is in unusually good original condition and was obtained by the writer some years ago from a New England antique dealer. The paint is excellent. The tree stump is an overall dark brown with the top of the stump and one root end in white. There are green sections around the base of the stump with some highlighting and flowers in yellow and red. The squirrel is a bronze and gold color with black eyes.

To operate the bank a coin is placed on the acorn as shown in the picture. The lever at the foot of the squirrel is depressed and the figure of the squirrel tips forward dropping the coin in the provided slot in the top of the stump. The squirrel automatically returns to the position shown upon releasing the lever.

The Squirrel And Tree Stump makes a very appropriate, desirable addition to a collection of mechanical banks. It is an interesting, attractive bank even to the decorative base plate, and difficult to find in complete original condition.


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