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The Eagle and Eaglets Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 1988

     Motherhood — that sacred and blessed state — has been infinitely glorified. Virtues of maternal affection and tenderness have even been expressed in the design of many a children's plaything. Several early toy manufacturers/designers, such a Kyser and Rex, the J. and E. Stevens Company, and Kenton Hardware, incorporated the maternal instinct into mechanical banks such as "Mammy and Baby," "Lion and Monkeys," "Two Frogs," "Mama Katzenjammer," "Hen and Chicks," and the subject of this article, "Eagle and Eag­lets." (Figure I)
     This novel bank portrays a mother eagle protectively perched above her nestlings. With wings outstretched, she feeds her young. The Eagle and Eaglets was produced and designed by Mr. Charles M. Henn of Chicago, Illinois. Henn was granted Patent number 271,200 (Figure II) on January 23, 1883. This date is indicated by the words, in raised lettering, "PAT JAN 23, 1883" positioned underneath the base. Shortly after receiving his patent, Henn approached the J. and E. Stevens Company, of Cromwell, Connecticut, with his proposal that Stevens manufacture his bank. Upon acceptance of Henn's proposition, Stevens granted him a royalty of approximately four cents per bank over a period of fifteen years. The Stevens Company effected several internal and external modifications to Henn's designs. However, comparison of the bank pictured in Figure I to the patent drawings of Figure II reveals fairly close adherence to the original designs.
          Operation of Eagle and Eaglets is initiated by placing a coin into the spring‑tension beak of the large eagle. This is followed by pressing downward upon the "snake-shaped" lever under the eagle's tail. Simultaneously, she leans forward, spreads her wings and drops the coin into the nest. Both eaglets rise upward, beaks agape as if to receive mama’s offering. This action is accompanied by a chirping sound emitted from within the bank, which is accomplished by a small bellows-activated whistle (refer to "S" in patent drawings, Figure II). The coins are removed by releasing the round Stevens' coin retainer underneath the base.
     Of interest is the fact that an early J. and E. Stevens illustrated trade card advertised Eagle and Eaglets as the "American Eagle" bank (Figure III). However, there was never an attempt on the part of the company to decorate the adult eagle as an American Bald Eagle. Further, the coloration of the eagle actually portrayed in the final production bank (Figure I) is a conglomeration of various eagles, rather than any one specific type. In contrast, the gray color of the eaglets' youthful plumage is a more accurate depiction of nature.
     There are no known casting variations of the Eagle and Eaglets, but there are two color variants. These differences pertain solely to the base of the bank. It may be painted either an overall light green with yellow and red highlights or, as pictured in Figure I, light tannish brown with yellow, red and green highlights.
     The eagle in both variations is painted white, with black markings on her back and wings. Her beak is dark brown with yellow nostrils and she has yellow-ochre feet with black talons. Her eyes are of glass; the corneas are white, and the pupils are black. Both eaglets are painted medium gray with black beaks. The nest is dark brown, highlighted with tan, black, and yellow. The pig-like animal emerging from the side of the base is painted orange with black eyes and a red mouth. The "snake-shaped" lever is brown and the rim around the bottom of the base is painted black.
     The Eagle and Eaglets was extremely popular in its day. (An early J. and E. Stevens Company catalog page is shown in Figure IV.) Hence, many were produced over an extended period of time — a factor which would generally place it in the category of being relatively common. However, due to its fragility, a complete and perfect example of this bank will command a high premium. The fragile parts of this bank are the eagle's wings, her eyes, her tail, the bracket which attaches her legs to the base of the bank, both eaglets, the operating lever, and the internal bellows. When an example of this bank is located, generally any of the aforementioned parts will be either broken or missing. Broken, missing, or replaced parts should always be taken into consideration when negotiating a selling price for this, as well as any antique mechanical bank. However, in the case of the Eagle and Eaglets, a missing or defective bellows is an exception, and should have no bearing on the price.
     In view of the popularity and appeal of the Eagle and Eaglets bank, numerous reproductions are in existence. To protect the collector from making a costly mistake, I am including a base diagram of an original example (Figure V). A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter along the base than indicated.
     Inquiries may be addressed to: Sy Schreckinger, Box 104, East Rockaway, New York 11518.

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