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The Springing Cat Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 1999

     Patience, perseverance, and tenacity are the admirable traits exhibited by our feline atop the "Springing Cat" Bank (Figure 1). Stalking and pouncing, but ultimately falling to capture an elusive adversary, are the actions demonstrated in this game of cat and mouse.
     The "Springing Cat" Bank was created one hundred sixteen years ago by the very talented bank designer, Mr. Charles A. Bailey. He was granted Patent number 261,419 on July 18, 1882 (Figure 2) for his invention that would humorously encourage the virtue of thrift within the young.
     Bailey produced the "Springing Cat" Bank at his faculty in Cobalt, Connecticut, prior to employment with the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. Although best remembered for his accomplishments with the Stevens Company, many believe his greatest mechanical bank achievements were realized in Cobalt with the production of "Baby Elephant Bank Unlocks at X O'Clock"; "Chinaman in the Boat"; "Darkey Fisherman Bank"; "Old Aunt Dinah and the Fairy"; "Wishbone Bank"; and the subject of this article, "Springing Cat" Bank. In each of these, Bailey's extraordinary, if not bizarre, sense of humor and imagination were revealed.
     All of the aforementioned mechanicals created at the Cobalt foundry were manufactured of a soft, lead-zinc alloy and yielded fine, exquisitely-detailed castings. Bailey was never to be able to achieve these same results at J. and E. Stevens. The crude and inflexible nature of the metal utilized at the Stevens' foundry, i.e, cast iron, precluded the possibility of producing highly-delineated products.
     The "Springing Cat" Bank, as well as most of Bailey's mechanicals, reflect the influence of his early career in the manufacture of coffin hardware. Floral motifs and art forms embracing nature decorate a generous portion of his banks' exposed surfaces. The banks produced at his Cobalt facility were not only particularly cast, but artistically painted. However, although Bailey was an accomplished artist, it has never been determined whether he personally decorated all of the assembled mechanicals or employed a talented staff of painters.
     The action of "Springing Cat" Bank is swift and effective: the cat is manually pulled back and set into position (Figure 1). A coin is then inserted into the slot at the opposite end of the bank where it stands on end, partially exposed. The ring-type lever is then pulled, releasing the cat and allowing it to spring forward. Simultaneously, the mouse appears, knocks the coin into the bank, and then disappears, once again thwarting the attempts of the hungry cat who is left with its mouth agape. Deposits are removed by flipping the round, wooden coin flap underneath the base.
     To my knowledge, there are no casting variations of "Springing Cat" Bank. However, there are two color differences, and these pertain to the base and mouse. (The cat is always painted the colors seen in Figure 1). The base may be painted the colors seen in Figure 1, or an overall yellow-green with red, gold and yellow highlighted decorations. The mouse may be either a medium or a light grey. Both color variations have full wooden base plates which are attached to the bank by small nails.
     All six mechanicals manufactured by Bailey at his Cobalt plant are considered rare. This suggests the possibility of fragility of material and/or extremely limited production. Interestingly, "Springing Cat" Bank, although quite scarce, is the least rare of the six.
     I am not aware of any reproductions of the "Springing Cat" Bank. Nevertheless, Figure 3 is a base diagram that should be helpful in determining size and scale.
     ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: The superb example of the "Springing Cat" Bank shown in Figure 1 is in the collection of Marilyn Steckbeck.
     CORRECTION: (from May, 1999) "Springing Cat Bank" article April 1999, paragraph six: The word is "Articulately" cast. "Sprining Cat Bank" in Figure 1 is in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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