"Feed the Kitty"
Unknown Author, THE SPINNING WHEEL, March, 1963
Few of the mechanical banks collected in this country today can be as thoroughly documented as "Feed the Kitty," patented as a bank in 1925. Recently Harry W. Hartman, Mount Vernon, New York, (his mechanical bank collection was featured in SW, May 1961) acquired the bronze original of the Kitty. That the few examples made from it were produced privately rather than commercially in no way impairs its status as a bank, and it is included, whenever possible, in all major bank collections.
Thomas Buell of New York invented his "Feed the Kitty" in 1925. This was a period of declining popularity for mechanical banks, even though a price list published by Americas most prolific mechanical bank manufacturer, the J.E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Connecticut, as late as July 1928, seems to ignore the trend. Offered then, at $16.75 per dozen, wholesale, were Teddy Bear, William Tell, Kicking Mule, and Negro; at $9 a dozen were Owls, and at $8.50 a dozen, Cabins. In spite of these low prices, which were to increase a hundred fold to collectors of a generation later, the day of the mechanical bank was past. Increased production and labor costs, combined with changing tastes of children spelt the end of toy banks.
Mr. Buell failed to interest the foundries in his invention too late and too risky to try a new bank, he was told. He finally abandoned his attempts to get Kitty produced, but luckily for a few modern day collectors, he lent the bronze original to a personal friend, Norman Sherwood of New Jersey, who had about 12 iron copies cast from it. (In 1955, the late David Hollander offered one of these iron castings, from The Chrysler Collection of Mechanical Banks, at $500. In 1961, one was listed at almost twice that amount.)
After Mr. Sherwood had the 12 copies cast, Mr. Buells original specimen was somehow lost, and remained so for about twenty years. Eventually it came to light and was returned to the Buell family.
From them, Mr. Mark Haber, well known mechanical bank dealer and toy authority, purchased it, together with all the original papers and drawings. Mr. Hartman first saw the original Kitty pattern bank several years ago at an annual meeting of the Mechanical Bank Collectors of America. Now its third transfer of ownership has been completed, and this unique bank, with its documents, stands in the permanent Hartman Collection.