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Monkey and Cocoanut Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - May, 1963

63-05.JPG (11456 bytes)A very attractive, rather realistic representation of a monkey is our choice as No. 112 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank, the Monkey & Cocoanut, is an outstanding example of good designing and is exceptionally well made. It is one of the writer’s favorites and, in addition to the factors mentioned, it also has well timed excellent action completely appropriate to the figure involved. Apparently James H. Bowen, the designer and patentee of the bank, had a real knack for clever mechanism with split second timing. Several of his banks bear this out, in particular the Darktown Battery. This bank, which depicts three baseball players — pitcher, batter and catcher — is about the greatest action bank ever made. The pitcher throws the coin so fast that one has difficulty seeing it on its way to the catcher and the timing of the movement of all three figures is outstanding. Another Bowen bank, which is a fine example of this coordinated timing action, is the Bull Dog Bank. Here the coin is flipped from the dog’s nose into his mouth and this method of depositing the coin is most unusual and clever. Then too Bowen designed and patented one of the most important of all the mechanical banks, the Girl Skipping Rope (HOBBIES, April, 1952). This is another great action bank and, of course, has the additional feature of continuous movement for a period of time.

In addition to the banks mentioned, Bowen held patents on the Creedmore, Cat & Mouse, Frog Bank, I Always Did ’Spise A Mule, Owl, and Calamity Bank (HOBBIES, November, 1958). He also patented a Bird Bank in 1881, but apparently this was never made or put into any state of production. Bowen’s first mechanical bank would seem to be in 1877, the Creedmore, and his last, judging from patent papers, was in 1905, the Calamity. A situation, somewhat unusual, existed where Bowen was concerned. He designed and patented his different banks but it would seem that he had nothing to do with actually making any of the master patterns or pattern parts for any of his banks. He let this work out to a specialist pattern maker by the name of John Page. (Please see HOBBIES, December, 1953, The Toy Bank Maker, for details on Page. It is interesting to note that Page, in describing his activities at the time was working on the pattern for the Monkey & Cocoanut.) Since full details are covered in this 1953 article, it is not necessary to go over all the information again at this point. Pertinent at this time is the fact that Bowen apparently did none of his own pattern work. Both Bowen and Page were residents of Philadelphia, Pa.

The Monkey & Cocoanut was patented March 2, 1886 and the bank as actually produced closely follows the three diagrams contained in the patent papers. The bank was manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn., as were all of Bowen’s known mechanical banks. He must have had a working arrangement with Stevens whereby he sent his patterns and so on to them. He was not apparently ever actually employed by Stevens.

The bank shown has been in the writer’s collection for some years now. It is completely original and in unusually fine condition. The paint work is very realistic and most attractive. Colors are as follows: The body of the monkey is done in shading of brown, his face is a medium tan with gray worked in around the eyes, nose and the wrinkles of his forehead. Shadings of red appear on the ears and the hair hanging from his jowls is dark brown. He has red lips and his eyes are an orange brown. The cocoanut held in his lap is a very dark brown, and the foliage upon which he sits is green. Red edging around the base completes the coloring of the bank. Of special interest is the fact that the plate in the base of the bank is very decoratively done in an attractive design. Bowen employed this same type of decorative base plate in his Darktown Battery Bank.

To operate the Monkey & Cocoanut, a coin is first inserted in the fingers of the right hand as shown in the picture. Then the lever located on the back of the bank is depressed. In so doing the following action takes place. The left forearm of the monkey turns clockwise raising the top half of the cocoanut to a vertical position. The coin is released by the thumb of the right hand and falls into the bottom half of the open cocoanut and on into the base. The monkey opens his mouth and rolls his eyes downward as though watching the action. Upon releasing the operating lever all moving parts automatically return to their normal position as shown in the picture.

In conclusion it bears mention that James Bowen and his banks were an important factor in the era of mechanical banks. Those he designed form an exceptionally interesting group and while, of course, he does not reach the stature of Charles Bailey, he most certainly deserves due recognition for his fine banks.

 

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