An Auction of Rare
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
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.