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The Indian and Bear Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine October, 1985

     Many a young man has been fascinated by the intrigue of hunting if not in reality, then in stories which portray the hero as a fearless wild game hunter. It is not surprising, therefore, that several mechanical banks were designed with just such a theme in mind. One example, the "Indian and Bear" bank, is the subject of this article.
     A most eloquent and illustrative mechanical, as shown in Figure 1, this bank depicts an Indian brave, outfitted in buckskins and eagle feathers, brandishing a rifle at a rearing bear. Unlike many of the mechanical banks which represented minority groups in a degrading manner. The "Indian and Bear" portrays these first Americans with great dignity in the form of a brave and graceful hunter.
     To date, no patent papers have been discovered. However, underneath the base of the bank, in raised letters, are the words: "PAT PEND'G." And, in the same location, I have seen an "Indian and Bear" bank with the words: "PATD JAN 17 1883." These present the possibility that this bank may be protected by another bank's patent.
     There is evidence which does indicate that the "Indian and Bear" was designed by Charles A. Bailey and manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut Figure 2 shows an early 20th-century catalog page from the J. and E. Stevens Company offering the "Bear Hunt" bank at $1.00 apiece, retail.
     The action of the "Indian and Bear" is typical of most "shooting banks," and is most aptly described in the catalog page (Figure 2). Pull the slide atop the rifle all the way back, then "place the coin in proper position on the barrel of the rifle. Press the lever and the rifle shoots the coin into the bear. It is so arranged that a paper cap may be fired at the same time." The deposited coins are removed by way of a round trap underneath the base.
     Aside from being an extremely well designed and graceful bank, the "Indian and Bear" is one of the more colorfully painted mechanicals. There are no casting variations of this bank, but there are two color variation. These pertain solely to the bear. It may be painted either brown or white, the latter being the rarer of the two (Figure 1). In both versions, the rest of the bank remains constant in color scheme.
     The colors are as follows: the Indian's hands and face are light tan with black eyes and eyebrows. His lips are pink, and he has dark brown hair. His shirt is red with yellow fringe on the left sleeve, and the bear tooth necklace around his neck is white. His pants are tan with yellow fringe, and his moccasins are dark brown. The tomahawk tucked into his brown belt has a brown handle with a gold blade. The rifle is black with a dark brown sling. His headdress has tan feathers, highlighted in yellow, orange, and blue. The bear is white with yellow eyes and black pupils. It has brown claws, a red mouth with white teeth, and there is a green vine weaving up its right side. The tree stump is brown with a light tan top. Finally, the base is painted dark green with orange splotches, and the lever is gold.
     Because of the extreme delicacy of the feathers and rifle sling, these parts are usually broken or missing when this bank is found. Thus, even though the "Indian and Bear" is considered a common bank, a fine, all-original example could fetch a not so-common price. Conversely, as with any mechanical bank, a break, recasting, or repainting will lower its monetary value drastically.
     The subject matter, in combination with a colorful and graceful appearance, has made this bank quite popular amongst both the advanced bank collector and the novice. It is precisely this popularity that has inspired many a reproduction. I am, therefore, including a base diagram of an original "Indian and Bear" bank (Figure 3). The reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter in the length.

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