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An Auction of Rare Artifacts
From the J. and E. Stevens Foundry

by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine July, 2009

     A truly notable sale of mechanical bank-related effects took place recently in Shelton, Connecticut. On April 4, 2009, many rare and historically important artifacts from the former J. and E. Stevens Foundry were placed upon the auction block. The site of the sale was the Lloyd Ralston Gallery.
     To comprehend the significance of such treasures is to recognize the importance of the J. and E. Stevens Company. This foundry, located in Cromwell, Connecticut, had been a renowned and prolific manufacturer of cast iron mechanical banks. The company is also credited with producing the first patented, cast iron mechanical bank, circa 1869, namely "The Hall's Excelsior" (Figure 1). It was the invention of this mechanical that ushered in a remarkable era of cast iron toy manufacturing.
     Conversing with Glenn and Terry Ralston, proprietors of the Lloyd Ralston Gallery, revealed information pertinent to the original acquisition and inventory of items ultimately offered at their auction. The following is based upon their knowledge of documented provenance: The year was 1959. An employee responsible for the creation of molds at the J. and E. Stevens Foundry arrived at work to discover the company had closed its doors due to bankruptcy. This gentleman, as well as the foreman and one other employee, were offered the opportunity to clear the building of its inventory.
     As payment for this undertaking they were permitted to divide the contents amongst themselves. Stored undisturbed in a local basement for a period of approximately fifty years were such items as hand carved wood prototypes (Figure 2), lead and bronze patterns (Figure 3), a "Bad Accident Bank" leaf spring manufacturing tool (Figure 4), bronze casting trees (Figure 5), sand casting molds (Figure 6), packing boxes (Figure 7) and various company ephemera. Of particular importance was a daily ledger (Figure 8) which meticulously recorded the names of each foundry employee, the items they produced, assembled and/or painted, and their monetary compensation for each completed piece.
     To conclude, one cannot over-emphasize the importance of the items presented at this auction. It offered the collector and historian a first hand glimpse into the history and early manufacturing procedures at the J. and E. Stevens Foundry.
     Congratulations and thanks to Glenn and Terry Ralston, for acquiring and compiling information, and providing the public with the opportunity to purchase these valuable relics.

 

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