Auction $ 
Sy - Index
Grif - Index
A - Z Index
Slide Show 
 YouTube \


What's New 
Web Notes 
A-Z Index  
Date Index 
European Tin 


The Speaking Dog Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 1984

     Imagine, if you will, a bank that doesn't humiliate the poor, doesn't ridicule the underprivileged, doesn't advocate violence, isn't anti-racial, and isn't political a bank that does nothing more than evoke feelings of nostalgia and a sense of what it might have been like to be a child of "the good old days."
     Such is the subject of this month's article: the beautifully proportioned, delicately painted, "Speaking Dog" mechanical bank.
     On October 20, 1885, both Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams, Jr., of Buffalo, New York, were granted Patent number 328,723 for their design and invention of the Speaking Dog. As evidenced by the patent papers (Fig. 1), the final production bank follows these designs quite faithfully.
     The Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York started manufacturing the Speaking Dog bank around 1885. Then in 1892, when they discontinued their line of mechanical banks, the J. and E. Stevens Company, of Cromwell, Connecticut, took over production.
     The workings of the Speaking Dog bank are quite complex and intricate, and because of this, a feeling of realism is achieved. A coin is placed upon the girl's round tray. As the lever next to her dog is depressed, the girl's right arm moves back and the tray tilts forward, depositing the coin into the bank. Simultaneously, the chute underneath the tray opens to accept the coin as the dog's jaw moves (hence, the name "Speaking Dog Bank") and its tail wags in contentment.
     The only difference between the bank produced by the Shepard Company and the bank produced by the J. and E. Stevens Company is the means by which the deposited coins are removed. The Shepard bank has a square key-locking coin trap in its base, while the Steven's bank utilizes a round coin trap that is opened without a key.
     Impressed into the base plates of both banks is the following: "Pat July 14, 1855 and Oct. 20, 1885." (This information aided in the location of the patent papers shown in Fig. 1.)
     Other than the coin traps, there are no casting variations of the Speaking Dog bank; however, there is a major color variation. More commonly, the little girl wears a red dress, but occasionally a bank is located that has the dress painted ultramarine blue. Although this is an attractive variant, it does not add to the ultimate rarity or value of the bank.
     The bank pictured in this article (Fig. 2) was manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company and the following is its color scheme: the base is reddish-brown with yellow striping. The words, "Speaking Dog Bank," as well as a fancy flourish on the back of the bank, the dog's collar, the fringe on the girl's dress, and the buttons on her shoes, are gold. The top of the bank is light gray. The little girl's face and hands are a natural pink flesh color; her lips are red, and her eyes are blue with black pupils and eyebrows. She has long, wavy blond hair, and sports a red dress with a large white collar and a purple sash around its waist. The bow around her collar is light blue as is the ribbon on her yellow hat. Her stockings are also light blue. The round tray is black, as is the operating lever and the little girl's high button shoes. The dog is mocha brown with white ears and paws. Its eyes are brown with black pupils and it has a red mouth with white teeth.
     Due to its colorful appearance, charming subject matter and intriguing action, the Speaking Dog bank gained great popularity during the period of its manufacture.
     An advertisement that appeared in the 1889 edition of the Montgomery Ward and Co. catalog listed the price of the Speaking Dog bank as a mere 80 cents apiece (Fig. 3) quite a bargain by today's standards.
     I have not seen nor heard of any reproductions of this bank; nevertheless, since the possibility may exist, I am including a base diagram (Fig. 4) which will indicate an original's size and scale.
     In conclusion, the Speaking Dog is a bank which seems to have endured the ravages of time. For even today, just as when it was first manufactured over one hundred years ago, it still charms, beguiles and entertains young children. Only today, the children are those who lie within all of us.

 [ Top] [ Back ]