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Uncle Sam Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - July, 1965

65-07.JPG (15030 bytes)The action of the greater number of mechanical banks is set in motion by either of two methods. One, used on the majority of the banks, is by means of a lever or some part that acts as a lever; and the second is the use of a coin which sets off the action, either by its insertion or weight. There are some exceptions to these two methods. For example, a select group of the mechanicals are operated by means of turning a crank. These are the Merry-Go-Round (HOBBIES, December, 1951), Mikado Bank (HOBBIES, February, 1952), Circus Bank (HOBBIES, October, 1952), American Bank (HOBBIES, July, 1955), Woodpecker (HOBBIES, April, 1957), Little Jocko (HOBBIES, April, 1960), and the four different Organ Banks. Two banks, the Presto Savings Bank (HOBBIES, March, 1960) and Bank of Education & Economy (HOBBIES, August, 1962) are motivated by revolving a knob. Then there is the Shoot The Chute (HOBBIES, January, 1952) where the boat when placed on top of the chute slides down and knocks the coin in the bank, and the Wireless Bank whose action is triggered by sound vibrations.

As to the action itself, the majority of mechanical banks operate on either of two basic principles. First, there are those always ready for operation having moving parts all of which return automatically to their respective positions after the action. Second are those having some part or parts which must be moved into certain positions before they can be operated properly. Some mechanical banks combine both basic principles of action, and a good example is the Darktown Battery (HOBBIES, June, 1965). The right arm of the pitcher must be set in position each time the bank is operated. All other parts return automatically to their respective positions after operating the bank. There is a fine group of mechanical banks that have clockwork or windup type mechanisms. These include the Freedman's Bank (HOBBIES, October, 1951), Girl Skipping Rope (HOBBIES, April, 1952), Motor Bank (HOBBIES, December, 1952), Professor Pug Frog's Great Bicycle Feat (HOBBIES, January, 1953), Bull Dog Savings Bank (HOBBIES, May, 1954), Ding Dong Bell (HOBBIES, October, 1954), Organ Grinder & Performing Bear (HOBBIES, February, 1958), and Weeden’s Plantation Darky Savings Bank (HOBBIES, Aug. '63). This group of banks must be wound, of course, before they will operate, however, they are all set in motion by use of a lever or coin. Some have timed mechanism (certain length of time of action per coin), and others operate until they run down, but in either case the figures involved are always ready for action after each respective bank is wound. There are no figures involved on the Motor Bank as the bank is an operating unit in itself.

Only four mechanical banks have a degree of sustained action by means of a counter-balanced part which moves of its own accord after the operating lever, in each case, is released. The Uncle Sam Bank, our choice as No. 131 in the numerical classification, is one of these banks. The others are Jonah & The Whale (HOBBIES, February, 1964), Stump Speaker, and the Speaking Dog Bank. The parts in each case are – Uncle Sam’s lower jaw and beard, lower jaw of the Whale, lower jaw and chin of the Stump Speaker, and the tail of the Speaking Dog. The Uncle Sam Bank, as well as the other three, were made by the same concern, The Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, N.Y. Uncle Sam was covered by a design patent dated June 8, 1886 and a regular patent November 16, 1886, both of which were issued to Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams, assignor to Walter J. Shepard, all of Buffalo, N.Y.

The Uncle Sam shown is one of the finest specimens of this bank ever seen by the writer. It is completely original with excellent paint. This is quite unusual as the paint on most surviving specimens is usually rather badly chipped, peeled, flaked, or worn. For one reason or another, the paint simply didn’t stay on most of the Uncle Sam Banks too well. The paint work itself, however, was exceptionally well done with fine facial detail and other parts in bright appropriate colors. These are as follows: Uncle Sam wears a fine gray hat with a wide blue band, having silver stars thereon. His face and hands are a pink flesh color, and the facial detail is exceptional as to the eyes, eyebrows, red mouth, and so on. His long hair and beard are a light gray. His shirt cuffs and collar are white and the flowing tie is white with red stripes. The swallow-tailed coat he wears is dark blue and the lapels are lined with red. His vest is light blue with a number of silver stars on same. The long trousers are white with red stripes and he wears black boots. A green umbrella, in his left hand, with tan handle, gold strap, and black top and bottom, complete his outfit. The large carpet-type bag is brown with the initials "U.S." in gold. The handles and binding are black with a gold line. The rectangular shape box which Uncle Sam stands upon has a gray top with white lines to simulate a platform made of boards. The concave underside edges of platform, the corners of the front, back and side plates, and the concave edges of the bottom plate are in green with yellow striping. The front, back and side plates are in bright red. Each side plate has the name "Bank" in gold. The large eagle on the front is gold and the name "Uncle Sam" on the blue banner held in the eagle’s beak is also in gold. This completes the coloring on a bright, attractive mechanical bank.

To operate the bank, a coin is first placed in the extended right hand. A lever to the back of the umbrella is then pressed down. The bag opens and the right arm lowers so that the coin falls into the bag where it stays temporarily. At the same time the mouth of the figure closes tilting the beard forward and upward. On releasing the lever, the arm raises to the position shown in the picture, the bag closes, and the coin drops on inside the base. Uncle Sam’s beard, being counter-balanced, then swings up and down, and his mouth opens and closes for some time as though he were talking. The action is clever and quite realistic. Coins are removed by means of a key lock coin trap in the back plate.

Uncle Sam is a true typical American bank and a fine patriotic item. It is unquestionably one of the most attractive of all the mechanical banks and makes a very desirable addition to a collection of the mechanicals.


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