The Elephant Howdah Bank, Man Pops Out
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – May, 1991
Despite the variety and quantity of mechanical
banks produced within the nineteenth century, categorization of each is a
simple matter. For example, there were those banks which ridiculed the
minority or newly immigrated population, such as "Jolly Nigger" and
"Reclining Chinaman," those which amused and delighted children, e.g.
"Trick Dog," and "Punch and Judy," those banks which encouraged savings
and thrift, e.g. "Home" and "Novelty" banks, and those mechanicals which
were designed as teaching aids, whether they be the alphabet, e.g.
"Picture Gallery," morality e.g. "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest," or the act of
charity with the offering of pennies to the "Patronize the Blind Man and
His Dog" bank, or even an introduction to the culture and customs of
foreign lands, such as "Elephant Howdah" bank, Man Pops Out (Figure I).
The strange mode of transportation, whereby one is carried atop a giant
beast through the magical and mysterious lands of the Near East, was
likely to fascinate and activate the fertile minds of children. The
"Elephant Howdah" bank was produced by the Enterprise Manufacturing
Company of Philadelphia, Pa. Figure II is a representation of several
pages from an 1878 Enterprise Jobbers Catalog. These indicate the foundry
was also involved in the manufacture of coffee, spice and drug mills,
doorstops, food processing and slicing equipment and cast iron penny
banks. In addition to the "Elephant Howdah" bank, Enterprise manufactured
only one other mechanical, namely the "Memorial Money Bank." This was sold
as a commemorative item during the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in
The "Elephant Howdah" bank, Man Pops Out, is one of few mechanicals
which are composed of several materials. The body, trunk and lever of the
elephant are made of cast iron, while the figure of the mahout, or
driver, is wood, and his tunic is fashioned from a piece of cloth.
Unfortunately, to date, no patent information has been located,
despite the words, "PAT APLD FOR" cast into the underside of the howdah's
lid. Had it not been for the discovery of several catalogs and advertising
materials, the manufacturer of this exciting bank would have remained an
The action of "Elephant Howdah" is quite amusing and relevant to its
subject. Successfully utilized is an action which most aptly might be
described as a "Jack in the Box," or as the case may be, the Mahout in the
Howdah. A coin is partially inserted into the mouth of the elephant. Then,
either the trunk may be lifted manually until it snaps into place, or the
driver can be depressed into the howdah until it snaps into place. (Note:
Utilizing the trunk as the means to set the mechanism is advisable since
the mahout's figure is made of wood and the possibility of breakage is
enhanced if too much pressure is exerted upon it.) The lid to the howdah
is then closed over the mahout and the small lever directly behind the
howdah is pressed. Simultaneously, the trunk snaps downward, striking the
coin into the bank, and the mahout pops up, opening the lid of the howdah
(refer to Figure I). Coin deposits are removed by undoing the large screw
which secures both halves of the elephant together.
There are no casting variations of which I am aware but there are
several color variants. These pertain mainly to the body of the elephant.
The colors of the blanket and the howdah basically remain consistent. The
elephant may be either dark brown japan, dark gray or as the one
illustrated in Figure I, painted bronze-gold. The blanket on either side
of the elephant is bright red and stenciled with an intricate gold and
blue oriental design. The howdah is painted dark blue with a red lid, and
the raised design at the base of the howdah is gold, as are the tassels
at the bottom of the blanket. The mahout in this illustration has a blue
hat; however, it may also be painted in red. His face is a pink, flesh
color and his hair is black. His eyes, nose, eyebrows and moustache are
executed in black lines. He has two large, white eyes and a red mouth.
Finally, his tunic is fashioned from natural tan colored linen.
Although I am not aware of any reproductions of "Elephant Howdah"
bank, a base diagram (Figure III) is included which indicates an
original's configuration and scale. To conclude, the "Elephant Howdah"
bank, Man Pops Out, is not considered rare. However, realization of the
scarcity of those in superb paint condition, with a completely original
mahout and tunic, may give thought to reassessment of this charming bank's
rarity and value.