The Hen and Chick Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – June, 1995
The virtuous state of motherhood has been
extolled a countless number of times and through various means. One such
expression has been via antique mechanical banks, with such notables as
"Mammy and Baby," "Eagle and Eaglets," "Lion and Monkeys," "Two Frogs,"
"Mama Katzenjammer," "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest," and the subject of this
article, "Hen and Chick" Bank (Figure I).
Of the aforementioned, "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest" and "Hen and Chick"
have been documented as the creations of master bank designer, Charles A.
Bailey. His genius had once again been demonstrated by rendering a pile of
nuts, bolts, springs and molten cast iron into the personification of
maternal tenderness. Both mechanicals bear his unmistakable trademark:
prolific use of leaf and flora forms woven into their design. Bailey's
successful use of cold, hard cast iron to achieve the warmth of graceful
flora form remains unchallenged to this day.
On October 1, 1901, Charles A. Bailey of Cromwell, Connecticut, was
assigned Patent Number
35,159 for his design of the "Hen and Chick" Bank
(Figure II). The mechanical bank was subsequently manufactured by his
employer, the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. It was
offered for sale in their catalog "Iron Toys, Etc.," circa 1906 (Figure
III): "Retail price $1.00. Each in a neat wooden box."
The action of "Hen and Chick" Bank is whimsical and entertaining. A
coin is placed into the slot directly in front of the hen. The lever
adjacent to her right side is then pulled to the rear of the bank. This
causes her head to move back and forth and her beak to open and close,
emitting a clucking sound. Simultaneously, a tiny chick springs forward
from beneath her breast and pecks the coin into the bank! Deposits are
retrieved by removing the round, patented, Stevens'-type coin retainer
underneath the base.
There are several casting and color variations of the "Hen and Chick"
Bank. A rare example of this mechanical bank is painted an overall gold
color. More common are the two variants, which were more attractively
painted. The colors of the bank shown in Figure I are as follows: the base
is bright green, adorned with light blue flowers with yellow centers and
yellow flowers with light blue centers. The leaf and grass designs are
highlighted in copper. Mama hen is painted white with a bright red comb
and wattles. She has a brown beak and yellow eyes with black pupils. Her
brood, their tiny heads peeking from beneath her protective wing feathers,
are painted yellow with black eyes. The chick emerging from beneath mama's
chest is also painted yellow, and it has black eyes and a brown beak.
Finally, the operating lever is painted gold.
There is one other polychrome version of the "Hen and Chick" Bank.
This one portrays a light brown hen, sitting on a dark metallic green
base. The colors of the flowers, chicks, etc., remain consistent with
those of the "white" hen variant. Interestingly, there were a few methods
utilized by the J. & E. Stevens Company to indicate patent information
underneath the base plate of "Hen and Chick." The first has the words,
"PAT APLD FOR" cast onto the base plate. A second has the words, "PATENT
APPLIED FOR" printed in black ink on a light-green paper label affixed to
the base plate. The third method is a base plate completely devoid of any
Surprisingly, there has been no known attempts to reproduce the "Hen
and Chick" Bank despite its desirability and popularity. Nevertheless, I
am including a base diagram of an original example (Figure IV). If a
reproduction were manufactured utilizing an original "Hen and Chick" Bank
as a pattern, it would appear one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch shorter
along the base, O. D., than indicated.
I extend my gratitude to fellow collectors Dr. Greg Zemenick and Mr.
Mike Gabriel for supplying pertinent information for use in this article.