The Hubley Trick Elephant Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – October, 1992
Of all the animals to inhabit the circus, the
elephant may, perhaps, be considered one of the most endearing to both
children and adults alike. Few are able to resist its gentleness, so
deceptively concealed beneath its huge and powerful exterior.
It is of no great wonder, therefore, that early toy manufacturers
sought to capitalize upon the popularity of the pachyderm by
incorporating its image into almost every line of their wares. Encouraged
by the, sales of these toys, many of the mechanical bank manufacturers
also began to incorporate the circus
elephant into their designs. Examples include such notables as "Baby
Elephant Opens at X O'Clock," designed by the well-known Charles A.,
Bailey, "Elephant Howdah Man Pops Up" bank which was introduced by the
Enterprise Manufacturing Company, "Elephant and Three Clowns," the "Jumbo
Elephant" bank and the "Light of Asia," which were produced by the J. and
E. Stevens Co., "Elephant with Tusks on Wheels" bank, sold by Kyser and
Rex, and the series of elephant mechanical banks with swinging trunks,
issued by the A.C. Williams Co.
The "Trick Elephant" bank (Fig. I) is believed to be the last of the
"antique" elephant mechanical banks to be manufactured. It was produced by
one of the major cast iron toy foundries, namely the Hubley Manufacturing
Company of Lancaster, PA. The company was founded by John Hubley in 1894
and became one of the leading producers of cast iron toys in the world.
Their merchandise included toy automobiles, trucks, trains, airplanes,
farm vehicles, animal-drawn wagons and still banks. It was not until the
turn of the century that Hubley introduced their line of mechanicals.
These included "Trick Dog" — 6-part base (Fig. II), the patent
and patterns of which were purchased from the Shepard Hardware Co. of
Buffalo, New York. Following this was the "Trick Dog" — solid base
version, the "Trick Monkey" bank, and the final in the series, the "Trick
Elephant" bank (Fig. III).
Unfortunately, neither patent papers nor other information
pertaining to the banks' inventor(s) or designer(s) has surfaced. Had it
not been for Hubley catalogs and advertisements (refer to Figure III), the
manufacturer of "Trick Elephant" bank might have remained an enigma.
There are two minor casting differences and two color variants of the
"Trick Elephant" bank. The elephant may either be painted a natural light
gray, as were the earlier production models, or a flat white. As to the
castings, the tail may be created from either cast iron or aluminum. The
colors of the bank illustrated in Figure I are as follows: The entire
elephant is painted white. It has yellow tusks, and eyes, the pupils of
which are dark blue with red dots in each corner. The mouth and top of the
trunk are painted red. The howdah is also red and is bordered with gold
decorations. It sits upon a dark blue blanket with gold fringe. Finally,
the strap around the elephant's belly is painted red.
The action of the "Trick Elephant" bank is both simplistic and
amusing. To quote from the catalog page in Figure III ... "Coin is placed
in trunk, and thrown into body by lifting tail." Coin deposits are removed
by unscrewing the large center bolt which secures both halves of the
The "Trick Elephant" bank is considered to be quite common since it
had been produced in large quantities over several years. However, in view
of its popularity with young children, it is quite uncommon to come
across an example that is in superb, almost mint condition. Thus, when an
exceptional bank is offered for sale, it is usually at a premium price.
The "Trick Elephant" bank has been reproduced. Figure IV is a base
diagram of an original example. Dimensions of recasts will vary from
one-quarter to one-half inch shorter in length than indicated.
I would like to thank Mr. Julian Thomas of Thomas Toys, Inc., Fenton,
MI, for his kind assistance in providing the catalog pages and information
pertaining to the Hubley Co. mentioned in this article.