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The Football Bank A Calamity
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 1985

      The subject of this article depicts a sport which originated in ancient and medieval Britain. The game we recognize as "football" developed from the disorganized, confused, and, often, violent "melees" which attempted to punch, carry, or kick an oval object, usually the inflated bladder of an animal, toward some goal. It was not until the early 19th century that football became more orderly, with the U.S. colleges and universities and the great English public schools adapting variations of the game of kicking or booting a round, inflated ball. The development of modern football, as we know it, was effected between 1906 and 1912.
     With "footballmania" sweeping the United States, it wasn't surprising that a toy mechanical bank reflecting the football theme would be designed (Figure 1) and offered for sale to a receptive public. On August 29, 1905, James H. Bowen, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was granted Patent number 798,491 for his design and invention of the "Calamity" mechanical bank. This patent protects both the design and internal mechanism of the bank (Figure 2).
     Production of the Calamity bank was executed by the J. and E. Stevens Co., of Cromwell, Connecticut, and is pictured in their catalog (Figure 3) at $1.00 each, packed in its own wooden box. As evidenced by the photograph in Figure 1, it may be said that Bowen's patent drawings were stringently adhered to.
     There are no casting variations of which I am aware. The basic color scheme is also standardized, except for some instances where the colors of the players' uniforms have been reversed.
     The colors of the Calamity bank pictured in Figure 1 are as follows: all three players have tan helmets, vests, and knickers; they have olive green shoulder pads and brown shoes, belts, and hair. Their hands and faces are pink flesh-colored, with red mouths and eyes that have white corneas with black pupils. The ball carrier's knee-socks, shirt sleeves, and collar are painted blue-gray. His two opponents' knee-socks, shirt sleeves, and collars are maroon. The football is olive green. The base of the bank is painted red with gold trim, as are its two hind legs. The top of the base is bright green with gold, highlighting the raised floral design as well as the words, "A Calamity."
     The action of the Calamity bank is exciting, surprising, and extremely amusing. To set the bank for its action, both side football players are pulled back, automatically locking into position behind the ball carrier. A coin is placed into the slot on top of the base; the lever is then pressed. Simultaneously, the ball carrier lunges forward; his two opponents swing around in front of him, and all three meet with a sharp crack of their foreheads. The coin then falls into the base. the lack of paint remaining on the faces of almost all Calamity banks gives credence to the harsh treatment these figures experienced.
     It is of further interest to note that the designer of this obviously bold and aggressive bank, James H. Bowen, also designed the delicate "Girl Skipping Rope" bank, an example of grace, serenity, and tranquility.
     The Calamity's violent action, coupled with its delicately designed castings, have resulted in breakage of many of these banks a factor which accounts for much of its rarity today. This scarcity, as may be expected, has spawned an abundance of recasts. I am, therefore, including a base diagram (Figure 4) to aid in determining an original Calamity bank from a reproduction. The recast will appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller in length than indicated in the diagram.

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