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The Indian and Bear with Moving Eyes Bank
A Unique Variation

by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine October, 2014

NEWLY-DISCOVERED variations of popular mechanical banks never fail to generate excitement and discussion amongst devotees of these collectables. Such was the case when, several years ago, I was requested to evaluate condition and pricing for an "Indian and Bear Bank" (Figure 1).
With reference to the articulated eyes of the bruin, examination of this mechanical revealed a very subtle but distinct difference. Upon its activation, not only did the bear's jaw open and close as did all known examples (refer to Figure 2), but, surprisingly, its eyes also raised and lowered (Figure 3). To my knowledge such animation had never presented itself with this mechanical bank.
     Subsequent to the discovery of this "new find" several theories were offered by its present owner, Mr. Frank Kidd, collector and historian. Mr. Kidd noted the close resemblance of this bank to a bronze foundry pattern "Indian and Bear Bank" within his collection. Such patterns were utilized for the ultimate manufacture of all "Indian and Bear Bank" cast iron examples.
     Mr. Kidd observed that the manufacturer created the pattern to have open eye sockets which this company then modified by filling the sockets with lead solder (Figure 4). Such modification appears to predetermine that all future iron castings of Figure 2 the bear's face would exhibit stationary eyes, as seen in Figure 2. Mr. Kidd also noted the actual metallic content of his mechanical (Figure 1) is bronze rather than the traditionally utilized cast iron.
     The animated eyes and non-traditional usage of bronze rather than cast iron to create a supposedly mass-produced mechanical bank leads to speculation that the variation (Figure 1) may have been a factory prototype modified pattern, employed by its manufacturer as a research tool. Perhaps its purpose was to determine whether the greater cost and effort to produce an "Indian and Bear Bank" exhibiting movable eyes would result in increased sales. Since all presently known cast iron examples exhibit stationary painted eyes (Figure 2), the aforementioned question of economy and profitability appears to have been answered.
     To date, no patent papers have been located indicating either inventor or manufacturer of "Indian and Bear Bank". However, an early twentieth century retail catalog issued by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, pictured the "Bear Hunt Bank" a.k.a. "Indian and Bear Bank", priced at $1.00 each. Seen in Figure 5, the aforementioned catalog page and illustration undisputedly identifies the J. and E. Stevens Company as the bank's manufacturer.
     Until the discovery of "Indian and Bear Bank" with movable eyes, the lone variation of this mechanical pertained solely to the painted surface of the figure of the bear. It may be decorated in several shades of brown as portrayed by an example seen in Figure 6. Or, it may have been painted white, as pictured in Figure 7. With exception to the figure of the bear, there may additionally be minor and subtle color deviations pertaining to other features of these mechanicals.
     On a final note, internal mechanical variations have not, historically, influenced the ultimate Figure 2 value of a mechanical bank. In this particular instance, in view of the fact that the internal mechanism creates a visible motion, one that enhances the bank's overall action, namely the articulated eyes of the bear, a premium price is likely to be exacted.
     To conclude, "Indian and Bear Bank" is attractive, well designed and historically significant. It portrays our nation's first known residents in a proud and dignified manner.
     Acknowledgment: The superb example "Indian and Bear With Moving Eyes Bank" (Figure 1) is within the Kidd Toy Museum collection, Frank and Joyce proprietors.
     My gratitude to the Kidd Toy Museum far supplying all of the photos referencing "Indian and Bear Bank" featured in this article.

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