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I Always Did ’Spise A Mule (Jockey)
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - April, 1975

75-04.JPG (14670 bytes)

A mechanical bank having the same basic operation as that of a patented mechanical toy is our choice as No. 246 in the numerical classification. This is the I Always Did ’Spise A Mule, a particularly fine action bank covered by the same patent as that of the toy I Always Did ’Spise A Mule, Bowen’s Series #2. While protected by the same patent, there should be no confusion between these two toys, one is distinctly a mechanical bank, and the other a mechanical toy with no provision for the use of a coin.

One of the outstanding designers of mechanical banks, James H. Bowen of Philadelphia, Pa., patented the toy and bank April 22, 1879. Bowen is responsible for some very clever action banks. The great Girl Skipping Rope, both action packed Calamity and Darktown Battery, Monkey & Cocoanut, Bull Dog Bank, the original shooting bank Creedmoor, and others. He had a lot to do with the popularity of mechanical banks by his ingenious use of a coin in the operations of his various banks, and the Always Did ’Spise A Mule is no exception. As with all Bowen banks that we know of, it was made by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn.

To operate the bank, a coin is placed in the open mouth of the figure astride the mule. The coin is held in place by means of a clamping lug which is connected to the visor of the cap. The operating lever just in front of the rear legs of the mule is then depressed. The mule kicks upward and forward, pivoting on the stationary front legs, throwing the figure forward from the mule’s back. The visor of the cap hits the log on the base, releasing the coin from the mouth of the figure into the coin slot in the base. To replace the figure on the back of the mule, the hind legs of the mule are pressed down into place and the figure automatically returns to position astride the mule. It bears mention that the spring operated visor of the cap also serves to absorb the shock and impact when the figure falls forward from the mule and hits the log.

The bank shown is in exceptionally fine, all original condition in all respects, including the paint. We must now point out that various schemes of coloring were originally used to decorate the bank. The sides of the base, for example, were done in brown during one period, then in red, and then in yellow. So original examples exist with different colorings, not only on the base sides, but also on the figure and the mule, the mule in a light tan and a dark brown. We’ll describe the coloring on one of the earlier examples of the bank. The base sides are dark brown with striping top and bottom in red and yellow. The base top is green with white lettering of the name I Always Did ’Spise A Mule. The log is brown with yellow ends. The mule is dark brown with black hooves, tail, mane, and harness. A blue blanket is over his back and there are various decorations on the harness straps in red and yellow. The figure wears a red, white and blue cap. He has a red shirt, white kerchief, and blue trousers. His bare feet, hands, arms, and face are black. His eyes are white with black pupils and his lips are red. The underside of the bank is dark brown, as is the perforated base plate with a conventional round Stevens trap. The date of April 22, 1879 is inscribed in the perforated base.

The companion mechanical toy, they make a nice pair, is very much like the bank with several exceptions. The figure astride the mule, for example, has a more proportionate size head, he does not wear a cap, and, of course, there is no provision for a coin in his mouth. The base of the toy is not raised, but rather sits flat on four lugs. These lugs originally had rubber thereon so it would not scratch or mar furniture or whatever when played with. The painting of the toy in the writer’s collection is exactly the same as that of the bank described. The same patent date is inscribed in the base. On top of the base between the mule’s legs appears "BOWEN’S SER’S NO: 2." This is in raised letters in circular form.

The fact of a toy and a bank being made under the same patent is highly unusual and quite interesting, but still characteristic of Bowen. He had a way of utilizing a patent so it covered more than one item. A further example of this is his patent on the Two Frogs, which also covered the Reclining Chinaman. Two banks, completely unalike in appearance, but having similar operating mechanisms.



An encyclopedia defines toys as: "Playthings for young children, sometimes developed and designed for instruction as well." It was the ancient tombs of Egypt however, that gave us some idea of how long toys have been a part of civilization. Jointed dolls, puppets, balls, crocodiles with movable jaws, etc., have been discovered and scientifically dated to early B.C. In Rome, as early as 378, there is evidence of miniature vases, bows and arrows, hoops, tops and other miscellaneous toys. A writer of the early Renaissance period (1587) mentions wooden hobby horses, toy drums, and clay marbles.

The first patented toy was invented by an Englishman, John Wells in 1672. This patent was to protect the design of Well’s "Artificial Horse." Over a century later in 1788, the first marble making machine was patented by a man named Holman.

The kaleidoscope, still very popular today, made its first appearance in 1817, thanks to the inventor Sir David Brewster.

Yes, toys have been with us a long, long time and each would have an important story to tell: whether it be the mass produced production line toys of today, or the tedious hand crafted artifacts of yesteryear.


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