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Squirrel and Tree Stump Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine September, 1993

      The nineteenth-century philosophy of thrift provided the impetus for a plethora of penny banks and toys. The popular adage, "A penny saved is a penny earned," was demonstrated by toy designers and manufacturers who incorporated bank buildings, safes, bank tellers, and cashiers into their wares.
     However, the creature which epitomizes the theme of saving and hoarding, namely the squirrel, seemed to have been overlooked in the world of mechanical bank design. Had it not been for Mr. Robert E. Turnbull, of New Britain, Connecticut, this woodland miser might never have been represented in a mechanical savings device. The Squirrel and Tree Stump bank, Figure I, was designed by Mr. Turnbull, for which he was granted Patent number 243,475 on June 28, 1881.
     With the exception of the two operating levers shown in the patent papers (Figure II), the final production bank (Figure I) adheres quite faithfully to Mr. Turnbull's drawings. In attempting to explain why his initial design indicated two levers, perhaps it was in anticipation of mechanical failure, thus providing the manufacturer with an alternative had one of the levers malfunctioned.
     The Squirrel and Tree Stump was produced by the Mechanical Novelty Works of New Britain, Connecticut. Robert Turnbull was one of three partners of that firm. (The other two gentlemen were also notable designers, i.e., George W. Eddy and James A. Swanson. Mr. Eddy was the inventor of "Initiating Bank First Degree" and "Initiating Bank Second Degree," also manufactured by Mechanical Novelty Works. [Refer to Antique Toy World article, November 1986.]
     An advertisement which appeared in the 1882 Winter edition of Erich's Fashion Quarterly is seen in Figure III. The "Squirrel Bank," as it was referred to by the manufacturer, was priced to sell for seventy-five cents apiece, and with postage, an additional fifty cents.
     Operation of Squirrel and Tree Stump is quite simple: "Place a coin in the squirrel's forepaws, touch the spring and the squirrel bounds forward and throws the coin into the bank."
     There are neither color nor casting variations of Squirrel and Tree Stump. The colors of the bank, as shown in Figure I, are as follows: the entire bank, including base plate, is painted a brown japan. The figure of the squirrel is highlighted in copper and gold. Its eyes are painted black. The top of the stump and one cut root end, are painted a creamy white color. There are indications of grassy patches around the base. They are embellished with red, yellow, and dark green floral designs.
     Squirrel and Tree Stump is considered quite scarce, and especially when found in superb, all‑original paint and mechanical condition. The figure of the squirrel appears to be extremely fragile. Any degree of rough handling most likely resulted in irreparable damage to the bank.
     There are presently more reproductions of the "Squirrel Bank" than authentic examples. Figure IV is a base diagram of an original mechanical. The recast, if measured across the base, will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter than indicated.
     Addendum: Re.: "Watch Dog Safe" article, Antique Toy World, July 1993. Mr. Frank Kidd, of Portland, Oregon, has kindly brought the following information to my attention: In addition to the fully painted example of the bank described in the article, a totally nickel-plated version has surfaced. However, since I have not personally examined the bank, I cannot attest to its authenticity.

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