Jonah And The Whale
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 1986
"In the days of Jeroboam the Second, there was a prophet named
Jonah. And God bade him to go to Nineveh, and tell its inhabitants that He
was going to destroy it for their great wickedness. But Jonah was not
willing to go. And, thinking he could escape God's notice, he hastened to
Joppa and took a ship for Tarshish.
God was displeased with Jonah for all this, and caused so violent a
storm to arise that the ship was in danger of being wrecked. Then the
seamen drew lots to find out for whose wickedness this storm had come upon
them, And the lot fell upon Jonah. So he told them all: And said they must
take him and throw him into the sea. The sailors were unwilling to do
this. So they rowed hard, in hopes of getting to land. But it was of no
use, so they hart to throw Jonah over; and immediately the storm ceased.
But Jonah was not drowned. God had prepared a great fish, that
swallowed him up, And at the end of three days and three nights, swam to
shore, And vomited him up unhurt.
Then he went at once, and warned the Ninevites who repented of their
sins, so that God spared their city.
— The Old Testament
On July 15, 1890, Peter Adams of Buffalo, New York, assignor to
Charles G. Shepard and Walter J. Shepard, also of Buffalo, was granted
20,007 (Figure 1) for a mechanical bank based upon the
biblical tale of Jonah the Prophet. The "Jonah and the Whale" bank (Figure
2) was manufactured by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York
and is a fine example of the artistic skills they exhibited in their
designs and painted decorations. The intricate and delicate quality of
Shepard's work remains unchallenged to this day.
The bank shown in Figure 2 represents the beginning of Jonah's ordeal
with God. Here we see a robed and bearded sailor casting Jonah into the
cavernous mouth of a "large fish," portrayed as a whale. (How, or when,
that interpretation of the fish was made remains a mystery.) The latter
portion of Jonah's epic is depicted in another mechanical bank, entitled
"Jonah on Pedestal" (Figure 3) which was manufactured by the J. and E.
Stevens Co. This bank represents Jonah's ill-fated journey which took
place in the belly of the whale. Upon activation of this mechanical, Jonah
is expelled from the whale's mouth onto a beach strewn with clams,
turtles, and various sea life. Operation of the "Jonah and the Whale" bank
in Figure 2, begins with placement of a coin upon the tray atop Jonah's
head. The lever at the stern of the boat is then pressed down.
Simultaneously, the bearded sailor holding Jonah pivots towards the whale,
tilting Jonah downward, thus depositing the coin into its gaping mouth.
The whale's lower jaw continues to bob open and closed, in a chewing
motion. These coins are removed by way of a square key lock coin trap
underneath the base.
There are no casting or color variations of the "Jonah and the
Whale," and the colors of the bank pictured in Figure 2 are as follows:
the four sides of the base are painted maroon with gold lettering. They
are outlined with yellow and black borders. The ocean is a light sea-green
color; the waves are capped in white. The inside of the boat is
yellow-ochre, and the outside is painted tan, red, gold, and blue, with
black ornamentation. The whale is dark green. It has a red mouth and white
teeth, which are delineated with thin red lines. Its eyes have white
corneas, brown irises, and black pupils. The sailor is wearing a red robe
with a yellow tassel, while Jonah wears a blue robe with a yellow tassel.
Both figures have pink flesh-colored hands and faces, white hair and
beards, and finely detailed black eyes and eyebrows; both have red mouths.
Mention should be made of the fact that Shepard paid a great deal of
attention to even the minutest details involved in the painting of their
banks. The hair and beard of both Jonah and the sailor are streaked with
such extremely fine
gray lines that most collectors will need a magnifying glass to detect
them. Unfortunately, because these banks were not undercoated prior to
decorating, much paint was lost due to age, moisture, and excessive
handling. Thus, it is understandable why a superb example of any Shepard
bank will command a high price in today's market.
The action, subject matter, and attractive color scheme have made the
"Jonah and the Whale" an extremely popular bank with novices and
collectors alike – inviting the creation of many a reproduction. Figure 4
is a base diagram showing the size of an original. A copy of a "Jonah and
the Whale" bank cast from an original will appear approximately one-eighth
inch shorter along the length, due to shrinkage of the cast iron as it
cools in the mold.