A National Magazine about ANTIQUES
Uncle Sam Bank
by EMMA STILES
Uncle Sam mechanical bank was made by the Shepard
Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York, in 1886. It is a popular bank, though not
as rare as some less colorful ones.
Made of cast iron, and standing 11-1/2 inches high, it has been hand painted
with bright colors. Uncle Sam has a ruddy pink face, long white hair that falls
to his shoulders, and a beard that extends to the first button on his blue
star-spangled vest. Red and white striped trousers, a dark blue frock coat, red
and white striped bow tie, and a gray top hat with blue band decorated with
silver stars completes his costume.
The figure is represented as standing on a platform of simulated boards, the
front decorated with an eagle and the legend "Uncle Sam." He holds a
dark green umbrella in his left hand, and a brown carpet bag rests nearby at his
The action is both clever and realistic. A coin is placed between the thumb and
four fingers of Uncle Sam's extended right hand. When the action lever (located
just in back of the umbrella} is pushed down, his lower jaw goes up closing his
mouth, and the carpet bag springs open. When the lever is released the bag
closes, the coin drops into a receptacle below, and Uncle Sam's beard, being
counterbalanced, bobs up and down for almost a full minute.
Mechanical banks handled coins in a variety of ways, but eventually each one
pulled the pennies away from its owner for safekeeping.