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Elephant Swings Trunk
(Large Variation)

by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine January, 2009

     The mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries proved a time of discovery and adventure for the American populous. Travelers from foreign lands introduced a wealth of unique and exciting ideas.
     Also brought to these shores were strange and exotic animals. Several of these creatures were feverishly sought after by proprietors of carnivals and circuses. Their motivation was to feature novel, never-before-seen, additions to their menageries. Of these, the elephant may, perhaps, have been one of the most fascinating and endearing to both children and adults alike. Its huge and mighty appearance belied its innate gentleness.
     Renowned American circus mogul, P.T. Barnum, recognized the ability of the elephant to perform and attract major audiences. His exhibitions of one such beast was promoted as "Jumbo, the World's Largest Elephant". This spectacle drew massive audiences and achieved worldwide acclaim. Jumbo's likeness adorned such items as posters, packaged foods, clothing, tools and toys.
     Mechanical bank manufacturers also did not hesitate to capitalize on such a popular and newsworthy subject. Images of the colossal pachyderm were soon incorporated into their line of wares.
     On June 27, 1905, designer Adam C. Williams of Ravenna, Ohio, was granted Patent number 37,474 (Figure 1) for his handsome representation of the circus elephant. His manufacturing company, i.e. the A.C. Williams Company of Ravenna, Ohio, subsequently produced the "Elephant Toy Bank", and, in two sizes: large (as seen in Figure 2) and small (seen in Figure 3). This size differentiation is indicated in one of the company's wholesale toy catalogs, circa 1906 (Figure 4): "No. 3548 Seven inches long, four and seven-eighths inches high, weight 2 lbs., finished in drab; gold and silver trimmings; per gross...$50.00. No. 3648 Five and one-eighth inches long. Three and five-eighth inches high, weight 19 oz.; finished same as 3548; per gross $25.00.".
     Other than their size both the large and small "Elephant Toy Bank" are identical in appearance. There are no casting variations of either version; the color, however, may vary with "drab" gray seen most often.
     Interestingly, because of the many different types of elephant mechanical banks, collectors identify these banks as "Elephant Large Swings Trunk" and "Elephant Small Swings Trunk".
     Action of "Elephant Toy Bank" (both large and small) is subtle, simple and appropriate to the subject. To quote once again from the A.C. Williams catalog: "The trunk of the elephant moves when the coin is inserted, and the trunk automatically closes the slot as soon as coin is deposited. Coin can be removed only by taking the bank apart."
     Both sizes of "Elephant Toy Bank" are considered relatively common. This factor, in addition to its lack-luster appearance, account for its status as an inexpensive mechanical bank. Nonetheless, locating an all-original, undamaged, complete example in "near-mint" condition could prove a challenge and a welcome addition to even the most advanced collector.
     Reproductions of both large and small elephant banks are known to exist. Figure 5 (Elephant Large) and Figure 6 (Elephant Small) are base diagrams of original examples. These are provided to aid the collector in determining authenticity. A recast of either bank will appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller O.D. than indicated.

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