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Frog Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - April, 1970

70-04.JPG (11940 bytes)

The Frog Bank, our choice as Number 181 in the numerical classification, with its rather unusual patent background, is a somewhat long awaited occasion to outline in article form. This bank could be called the "daddy" of Patent No. 262,361, that is to say this is the original bank as diagrammed and outlined in James H. Bowen’s patent of August 8, 1882.

Bowen of Philadelphia, Pa., was the inventor and designer of many fine mechanical banks including the Frog Bank. The unique situation with respect to his Patent 262,361 is the fact that it also covers the Reclining Chinaman, HOBBIES, December, 1959; Elephant And Three Clowns On Tub, HOBBIES, October, 1963; and Paddy And The Pig, HOBBIES, April, 1965. These four mechanical banks, while completely different in appearance, have in common similar mechanical action and mechanism. While the Frog Bank is the original bank covered in the patent by Bowen, the other three were also protected by the same patent under the mechanics and operating method of parts.

The patent itself consists of three drawings of the bank and two and one half pages of text. In part, the text covers "a toy savings bank composed of a receptacle for money made either in whole or in part in the image of a living being." Further on in the text it is pointed out that "the accompanying plate of drawings illustrates the toy savings bank with its parts constructed and arranged in connection with the images of two frogs." Very specific detail is then given as to the various operating parts including a sound producing mechanism, which in this case represented the croaking of frogs. After complete description of working parts, the text then restates that "the bank described may be made in the image of living beings of any kind and character or any other desired shape." Also the fact was stated that "all sound producing devices may be dispensed with." This statement in the text conforms to the bank as actually made in that there is no sound mechanism present. All in all, it is a very interesting patent to study as Bowen was quite careful to make sure that the details would not just cover a Frog Bank, but would in fact be applicable to other banks. The three drawings, with the exception of the sound producing mechanism, are identical to the actual bank as produced. To complete the patent phase, it is well to point out that the Frog Bank, which would automatically include the other three, also was covered by an English patent dated July 28, 1882. This date, as well as the United States patent date August 8, 1882, appears on the base plates of the four banks. One exception is the Frog Bank; some were made prior to the granting of the patent and these had inscribed on the base "Pat Apld For."

The Frog Bank was manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn., as were the Reclining Chinaman, Elephant And Three Clowns On Tub, and Paddy And The Pig.

The bank pictured is in excellent original condition with no repairs. Particular mention of "no repairs" is due to the fact that the kicking leg of the frog lying on his back is a very vulnerable part and more often than not broken or missing. The bank shown has the inscription "Pat Apld For" on the base and is then, of course, the earliest type of this bank obtainable. It is most unusual to find this early type in the fine original paint condition as is the one in the photo. Colors are as follows: The large frog is a mottled green and brown with light yellow-green underside. The inside of his mouth is red and he has brown glass eyes with black pupils. The smaller frog is a dark green with light yellow-green underside, a red mouth, and black glass eyes outlined in yellow. The base is an all over light green with blue-green representations of grass and foliage.

To operate the bank a coin is placed on the coin rest (see photo) held by the front legs of the frog lying on its back. The lever in back of the large frog is then pressed down. This causes the movable leg of the prone frog to kick the coin from its rest as the large frog opens his mouth to receive it. Releasing the lever causes the moving parts to return automatically to the positions as shown in the picture.

The Frog Bank is a most attractive item. This coupled with its very good action makes it a must to have in a collection of mechanical banks.


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