Pig In High Chair Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 1993
"The Duchess was sitting on a three-legged
stool nursing a baby, the cook was leaning over a fire stirring a large
cauldron which seemed to be full of soup.
"There's certainly too much pepper in that soup!" Alice said to herself,
as well as she could for sneezing.
Even the Duchess sneezed occasionally; and for the baby, it was
sneezing and howling ... "Here! You may nurse it a bit if you like!" said
the Duchess to Alice, flinging the baby at her as she spoke. Alice caught
the baby with some difficulty, as it was a queer-shaped little creature
... "Don't grunt," said Alice; to the baby, "that's not at all a proper
way of expressing yourself. " The baby grunted again, and Alice looked
very anxiously into its face to see what was the matter with it. There
could be no doubt that it had a very turned-up nose, much more like a
snout than a real nose; also its eyes were extremely small for a baby.
"If you're going to turn into a pig, my dear," said Alice,
"seriously, I'll have nothing more to do with you."
—Lewis Caroll (from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
The year was 1865 and Charles Lutwidge
Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, created his timeless masterpiece of the
absurd and sublime Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Chapter 6, entitled
"Pig and Pepper," describes a ludicrous scene in which a Duchess sits
feeding a hysterical baby who gradually metamorphasizes into a piglet
Thirty-two years later, on August 24, 1897, Peter Adams of Buffalo,
NY, appears to have recaptured that nonsensical episode created by
Carroll with his patent design for a mechanical bank in the form of a
piglet sitting in a highchair.
Although the patent papers make no mention of the Alice in Wonderland
fantasy, the image of a baby pig sitting in a high chair being fed coins
appears to be more than coincidental.
The words, "PATD
AUG 24 1897" cast into the underside of the base
facilitated location of the patent papers illustrated in Figure II.
The "Pig in High Chair" bank (Figure III) was subsequently
manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, CT. Noteworthy
is the fact that Peter Adams, inventor of the "Pig in High Chair" bank,
initially designed mechanical banks solely for the Shepard Hardware
Company of Buffalo, New York. This was at a time when Shepard and J. E.
Stevens were leading competitors in the manufacture of mechanical banks.
However, during the latter part of the nineteenth century, Shephard
Hardware experienced great financial difficulties and was ultimately
forced to cease its operations. The defunct company sold several of their
mechanical bank designs and patents to the J. and E., Stevens Company.
Included among these was "Pig in High Chair."
An early Steven's toy catalog (Figure IV) pictures the "Pig in High
Chair," but with the name "Educated Pig" bank. The designation "Pig in
High Chair" was created by bank collectors who sought to identify the
mechanical by more accurate description of its actual appearance.
The action of "Pig in High Chair" is appropriately and simply
described in a 1903 Montgomery Ward and Company catalog (Figure V); "Place
a coin on the tray and press the lever; the pig catches it in his mouth,
moves his tongue and swallows it." Deposits are recovered by opening the
round Stevens-type coin retainer underneath the base.
There are neither casting nor color variations of "Pig in High
Chair." The example shown in Figure III is nickel-plated cast iron.
Sadly, because of its small size, lack of color and limited action, the
"Pig in High Chair" bank is not a particularly popular or sought-after
mechanical. However, to those bank collectors who have examined its
flawless detail, graceful casting, as well as its ridiculous but
intriguing subject matter, it has proven to be a worthy and attractive
addition to their collections.
I am not aware of existent reproductions of "Pig in High Chair."
Nonetheless, if one were to be recast, it would be approximately
one‑eighth of an inch shorter across the base than indicated in Figure VI.
Acknowledgment: The "Pig in High Chair" bank (Figure III) is from the
superb mechanical bank collection of Mr. Barry Seiden.