The Lion Hunter Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 1985
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the
United States, was a decorated war hero, an explorer, and one of the most
renowned big game hunters of his time. It was the concept of "Teddy, the
Hunter" that was incorporated into one, and possibly two, mechanical banks
designed by Charles A. Bailey.
The "Teddy and the Bear" bank, patented on
February 19, 1907 (Figure
1), was, undoubtedly, an effigy of Theodore Roosevelt, having been
designed, patented, manufactured. and named after him during his terms of
office in the White House. The reason for hesitation in proclaiming Teddy
the subject of the "Lion Hunter" bank is the lack of documentation or
mention of Roosevelt in the patent papers shown in Figures 1 and 2. Nor
does his name appear on the manufactured bank as it does on the "Teddy and
the Bear" bank.
Perhaps the following conjecture may clarify this issue: Roosevelt's
term of office, after re-election in 1904, ended in 1909, whereupon he,
his son, Kermit; and a group of scientists set sail for Africa to hunt big
game. The expedition was to claim 296 specimens, including nine lions.
Riding on the success of his "Teddy and the Bear" bank, perhaps Charles
Bailey seized upon the opportunity to make the most of Roosevelt's safari
and decision to run, once again, for the presidency in the election of
1912, by designing the "Lion Hunter" bank. Bailey was granted Patent
41,696 on August 22, 1911 (Figure 2) for this mechanical.
"Teddy and the Bear" and the "Lion Hunter" were both manufactured by
the J. and E. Stevens Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut.
The supposition that Bailey had Roosevelt in mind when he designed
the "Lion Hunter" bank is supported by the fact that it was conceived and
patented at the time of Roosevelt's African game hunt In addition, the
face of the hunter bears an uncanny resemblance to the handle-bar
mustached Teddy Roosevelt, The omission of Teddy's name, either by
Bailey, or J. and E. Stevens, from the manufactured bank may, perhaps, be
explained by the fact that Roosevelt lost his bid for the presidency in
the 1912 election. Unfortunately, it was his controversial platform that
led to a split party vote – resulting in the emergence of a victorious
It may be noted that the patent drawing (Figure 2) indicates a blank
area where the words, "Lion Hunter" appear on the final production bank.
Perhaps Bailey anticipated the outcome of the election before naming the
The design patent (Figure 2) protects only the external
"ornamentation" of the "Lion Hunter' bank. It is the patent for the "Teddy
and the Bear" bank (Figure 1) which protects the inner mechanism and
workings of the "Lion Hunter" bank.
The action of the" Lion Hunter" is extremely animated: first, the coin
slide atop the rifle's barrel is pulled back, cocking the gun. The
hunter's head moves forward as if taking aim. A penny is then placed in
front of the slide. (A toy paper gunpowder cap may be inserted in front of
the gun's hammer.) The lever is then pressed (Figure 3). Simultaneously,
the cap fires and the hunter's head moves back as if from the recoil. The
lion rears up, and the penny is propelled forward, being deposited beneath
the lion, into the bank.
(The lion can be made to rear up without cocking the rifle by merely
depressing the lever. This "double" action is a unique feature of both the
"Lion Hunter" and the "Teddy and the Bear" banks - and is so described in
the patent papers. In the "Teddy and the Bear" bank the bear pops up out
of the treetop when the lever is pressed.)
There are no casting or color variations of the "Lion Hunter" bank.
The color scheme is also constant, and the one pictured in Figure is as
follows: the hunter's face and hands area pink flesh color; he has a red
mouth with white teeth; the corneas of his eyes are white; and the pupils
are black, as are his eyebrows and his handle-bar moustache. He has a red
mouth. His uniform is tan with a gold bullet belt. The boots are green
with gold buttons and his pith helmet is light beige. The rifle is silver
with a reddish brown stock. The lion is brown. The base is dark green with
a metallic gold tinge. The floral design, as well as the name. "LION
HUNTER," are painted copper. There are flecks of mica applied randomly
over the base to give the effect of rock.
The "Lion Hunter" bank possesses all of the qualities which make it
highly desirable: a degree of rarity. good action and color, imposing size
and design, and the distinction of having been designed by the most
prominent mechanical bank designer of the 19th century, Charles A. Bailey.
I am not aware of any reproductions of the "Lion Hunter" bank.
Nevertheless, included is a base diagram (Figure 4) to indicate size and
September, 1985) In the article entitled, "The Lion Hunter Bank," Antique
Toy World, July 1985, it was erroneously stated that the Hunter has a red
mouth with white teeth. That should have been descriptive of the Lion.