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The Jumbo Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – December, 1987

     Possibly the single greatest attraction the circus world had ever known was Jumbo the elephant (Fig­ure I). Its performances spanned 3-1/2 years and were viewed by literally millions of persons before meeting its untimely and tragic demise. On September 16, 1886, the following obituary appeared in a St. Thomas, Ontario, tabloid: "Last night death came to the giant elephant Jumbo. After the P. T. Barnum Circus had completed its evening performance at St. Thomas, Jumbo and the midget elephant, Tom Thumb, both walking along the railroad tracks, were struck and killed by an oncoming freight train." (Figure II is an early woodcut which attempted to interpret and report that fateful event.)
     During, and subsequent to its lifetime, Jumbo's name became synonymous with anything that was unusually large. Sometime prior to Jumbo's death, the J. and E. Stevens Company, of Cromwell, Connecticut, attempted, as did many entrepreneurs of their day, to capitalize on this gigantic elephant's popularity by incorporating its name and likeness into their product. However, the Stevens' "Jumbo" mechanical bank (Figure III, shown actual size) sharply contrasts with the image of this pachyderm (Figure IV) since it was, and continues to be, one of the smallest mechanicals ever manufactured.
     In addition to "Jumbo," J. and E. Stevens produced two other similar elephant banks. These were "Light of Asia" and "Elephant With Tusks on Wheels." Although both are much scarcer than "Jumbo," the rarity of the latter should not be underestimated.
     To date, no patent papers for the "Jumbo" bank have been located. An explanation (offered only as conjecture by this writer) might be that, in order for the Stevens Company to utilize and protect the Jumbo name and like­ness for their bank, they not only were compelled to seek permission from P. T. Barnum, but also were required to apply for a design patent. Perhaps these would have prov­en too time consuming for such a highly competitive business, where the most important factor was the speed in which a product could be introduced and offered for sale, thus enabling the company to profit before others entered the market.
     Simplistic is the most accurate description of the "Jumbo" bank's action: Insertion of a coin into the slot atop the elephant's back causes its head to nod upward and down. Coin removal, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult. The bank had to be disassembled, which was accomplished by removing the large screw which secured both halves of the elephant's body together.
     As mentioned previously, "Jumbo" is a relatively scarce bank, and the reason is revealed upon examination of an example. Since it was also designed as a pull toy, more than likely it experienced some degree of rough handling. Unfortunately, its small and delicate castings were not intended to withstand this type of treatment and, combined with the complexity of coin removal, it is fortunate any intact example exists today.
     There are no casting variations of the "Jumbo" mechanical, but there are two color differences. These per­tain solely to the figure of the elephant, wherein one is painted gray and the other (Figure III) is painted chocolate-brown. Both have white eyes with black pupils and a red mouth. Their blankets are red with gold trim, and the name, "Jumbo," is highlighted in gold. Finally, the platform and wheels they stand upon are bright green with gold accents.
     I am not aware of any reproductions of the "Jumbo" bank. Nevertheless, Figure V is a wheel diagram which should help determine its size and scale. A reproduction would appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch smaller than indicated.
     Correction: (from November, 1991) It was erroneously stated in the December 1987 Antique Toy World article, "The Jumbo Bank," that the J. and E. Stevens Co. also manufactured the "Elephant with Tusks on Wheels" bank. Discovery of new evidence indicates the likelihood of Kyser and Rex Co. of Frankford, PA, as its manufacturer. Further elaboration will be contained within a future article in this magazine.

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