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Elephant & Three Clowns on Tub
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - October, 1963

63-10.JPG (18319 bytes)A mechanical bank which has the unusual distinction of being covered by the same patent papers as those of two other banks is our choice as No. 114 in the numerical classification. This fine little mechanical bank with its circus theme background is the Elephant And Three Clowns On Tub. It has very clever action and actually the proportion and designing of this bank ranks it as one of the best from these standpoints. As has been mentioned by the writer in certain previous articles, the mechanical banks in the circus group have a definite appeal, and this continues to increase as time goes on. It is not necessary to again list all those that represent this subject matter and sufficient at this time is the fact that the bank under present discussion is one of the most interesting and desirable in the circus group.

The Elephant And Three Clowns has the following patent information inscribed on the base plate: "Eng. Pat. July 28, 1882 — U.S. Pat. Aug. 8, 1882." This is somewhat unusual as a very limited number of the mechanical banks were patented in both the United States and England. Even more unusual is the fact that three of these mechanical banks, including the one under discussion, are all protected by the same patent papers. James H. Bowen of Philadelphia, Pa., was the inventor responsible for this unique situation. The patent papers in this instance were issued to him on the basis of a "Toy Savings Bank" and the accompanying drawings are those of the Frog Bank. In the printed detailed text of the papers, however, is where four methods of operation, based on a basic principle, are outlined and thoroughly described. This is the basis on which at least three entirely dissimilar appearing mechanical banks are covered by the same patent papers. The third bank is the Reclining Chinaman (HOBBIES, December, 1959). Thus, the Elephant And Three Clowns, Frog Bank, and Reclining Chinaman all share certain similarities in their operating mechanism which is covered by the same patent papers. As further explanation, a short quote from the rather lengthy papers is in order: "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." Mr. Bowen also specified that use could be made of a "representation of a leg or other limb or part of a living being." This point is well carried through by all three banks made under the patent. They were manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn.

Leon Perelman is the owner of the bank shown and he obtained it through the good help of George Bauer of Pottstown, Pa. Colors are as follows: The Elephant is gray, white tusks and eyes, mouth and tip of trunk in red, and the blanket over his back is blue with yellow fringe and tassels. The tub is tan trimmed in gold, with a red top. The two clowns, one holding the gold rings and the other balancing the gold ball on his feet, are painted alike with blue costumes and red belts and flesh color arms, legs and faces. The front clown has a handlebar type mustache. The clown astride the elephant has a red costume with a large star on his chest. His peaked hat is red with a blue rim, shoes are black, and arms, legs and face are flesh toned, the same as the other two clowns.

To operate the bank a coin is placed between the two rings held by the clown standing beneath the elephant’s trunk. The ball balanced on the feet of the clown on the steps is then pulled backward. The legs of this clown actually operate as a lever and cause the elephant’s trunk to swing to the side, thus knocking the coin between the legs of the elephant and on into the coin slot in the top of the tub. At the same time the clown riding the elephant turns at the waist to face the same direction as the other two clowns. Upon releasing the ball all moving parts automatically return to the positions shown in the picture.

In conclusion a point of some interest is in order. Some years ago the writer had occasion to visit the late Norman E. Sherwood, who was a pioneer dealer in mechanical banks. At the time Mr. Sherwood showed him an original pattern of the Elephant And Three Clowns made in bronze. In examining this pattern the writer noted that the clowns faced in the opposite direction than those of the production bank. In other words, in looking at the photograph herewith the back of the heads would show if the bank had been made from this pattern. It was apparently never used to make production banks since the writer has never seen any with the heads facing in this direction. It is the writer’s opinion that the bank was produced as shown so that it could be properly operated with the right hand.


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