The Eagle and Eaglets
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – August, 1988
Motherhood — that sacred and blessed state — has
been infinitely glorified. Virtues of maternal affection and tenderness
have even been expressed in the design of many a children's plaything.
Several early toy manufacturers/designers, such a Kyser and Rex, the J.
and E. Stevens Company, and Kenton Hardware, incorporated the maternal
instinct into mechanical banks such as "Mammy and Baby," "Lion and
Monkeys," "Two Frogs," "Mama Katzenjammer," "Hen and Chicks," and the
subject of this article, "Eagle and Eaglets." (Figure I)
This novel bank portrays a mother eagle protectively perched above
her nestlings. With wings outstretched, she feeds her young. The Eagle and
Eaglets was produced and designed by Mr. Charles M. Henn of Chicago,
Illinois. Henn was granted Patent number
271,200 (Figure II) on January
23, 1883. This date is indicated by the words, in raised lettering, "PAT
JAN 23, 1883" positioned underneath the base. Shortly after receiving his
patent, Henn approached the J. and E. Stevens Company, of Cromwell,
Connecticut, with his proposal that Stevens manufacture his bank. Upon
acceptance of Henn's proposition, Stevens granted him a royalty of
approximately four cents per bank over a period of fifteen years. The
Stevens Company effected several internal and external modifications to
Henn's designs. However, comparison of the bank pictured in Figure I to
the patent drawings of Figure II reveals fairly close adherence to the
Operation of Eagle and Eaglets is initiated by placing a coin
into the spring‑tension beak of the large eagle. This is followed by
pressing downward upon the "snake-shaped" lever under the eagle's tail.
Simultaneously, she leans forward, spreads her wings and drops the coin
into the nest. Both eaglets rise upward, beaks agape as if to receive
mama’s offering. This action is accompanied by a chirping sound emitted
from within the bank, which is accomplished by a small bellows-activated
whistle (refer to "S" in patent drawings, Figure II). The coins are
removed by releasing the round Stevens' coin retainer underneath the base.
Of interest is the fact that an early J. and E. Stevens illustrated
trade card advertised Eagle and Eaglets as the "American Eagle" bank
(Figure III). However, there was never an attempt on the part of the
company to decorate the adult eagle as an American Bald Eagle. Further,
the coloration of the eagle actually portrayed in the final production
bank (Figure I) is a conglomeration of various eagles, rather than any one
specific type. In contrast, the gray color of the eaglets' youthful
plumage is a more accurate depiction of nature.
There are no known casting variations of the Eagle and Eaglets, but
there are two color variants. These differences pertain solely to the base
of the bank. It may be painted either an overall light green with yellow
and red highlights or, as pictured in Figure I, light tannish brown with
yellow, red and green highlights.
The eagle in both variations is painted white, with black markings on
her back and wings. Her beak is dark brown with yellow nostrils and she
has yellow-ochre feet with black talons. Her eyes are of glass; the
corneas are white, and the pupils are black. Both eaglets are painted
medium gray with black beaks. The nest is dark brown, highlighted with
tan, black, and yellow. The pig-like animal emerging from the side of the
base is painted orange with black eyes and a red mouth. The "snake-shaped"
lever is brown and the rim around the bottom of the base is painted black.
The Eagle and Eaglets was extremely popular in its day. (An early J.
and E. Stevens Company catalog page is shown in Figure IV.) Hence, many
were produced over an extended period of time — a factor which would
generally place it in the category of being relatively common. However,
due to its fragility, a complete and perfect example of this bank will
command a high premium. The fragile parts of this bank are the eagle's
wings, her eyes, her tail, the bracket which attaches her legs to the base
of the bank, both eaglets, the operating lever, and the internal bellows.
When an example of this bank is located, generally any of the
aforementioned parts will be either broken or missing. Broken, missing, or
replaced parts should always be taken into consideration when negotiating
a selling price for this, as well as any antique mechanical bank. However,
in the case of the Eagle and Eaglets, a missing or defective bellows is an
exception, and should have no bearing on the price.
In view of the popularity and appeal of the Eagle and Eaglets bank,
numerous reproductions are in existence. To protect the collector from
making a costly mistake, I am including a base diagram of an original
example (Figure V). A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth of
an inch shorter along the base than indicated.
Inquiries may be addressed to: Sy Schreckinger, Box 104, East
Rockaway, New York 11518.