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Bailey’s Banks
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1963

Designers of mechanical banks were located in various parts of the country, but New England was the most active area of this specialized vocation. This was largely due to the talents and work of one man, Charles A. Bailey, the greatest and most outstanding of all the mechanical bank designers. He not only designed banks, but he also manufactured some himself.

Bailey’s first known effort in the field of banks was a representation of a pocket type watch made of a lead-like material or white metal. This was a still bank and he manufactured it in his own shop in Cobalt, Conn. He patented this item as a toy money box November 25, 1879. In the papers he referred to it as a "toy watch bank" and went on to outline the convenience of the item, as well as the inexpensive advantages the bank offered insofar as manufacturing costs were involved. His next bank, the Baby Elephant Bank Unlocks At X O’Clock, was patented November 16, 1880. This was his first known mechanical bank, and again he was the inventor, designer, pattern maker and manufacturer. Please understand he made some mechanical banks in certain periods that are as yet not identified with a certain date. The Chinaman In Boat and Darky Fisherman Bank are two of these. Also it is possible that he made a bank or banks which to date have remained undiscovered. In any event, the Baby Elephant Bank is recognized as his first mechanical and, of course, the date of this bank is definitely known from the patent papers.

Soon after this, and while producing some banks on his own, Bailey started some design and pattern work for the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. This had to do with mechanical banks, of course, but he also worked with toys, and among these he was responsible for some fine bell ringing toys such as The Landing Of Columbus, Drummer Boy, and Evening News Baby Quieter. Pattern parts made by Bailey were found at the Stevens Company some years ago for a Christmas Morn bell ringer, but this was apparently never put into production.

After a few years of doing fine ingenious designing and pattern work for Stevens, Bailey moved to Middletown, Conn., and opened a pattern shop there. This was in the period of 1885 to 1890. He then went to work for Stevens as their exclusive pattern maker and bank designer and continued with them until around 1915, at which time he again opened a shop of his own in Cromwell, Conn.

Mechanical banks were apparently his first love, but he did make some other out-of-the-ordinary things. For example, the writer has an unusual inkwell in the shape of a large pipe with a hinged covered lid on the bowl. It is very ornate and made of the white metal type material which he used so often when manufacturing things himself. A large rose is on the cover, on the front of the pipe bowl is the bust of a woman, and on the back there is a reclining figure. There are vines and flowers all over the piece, and the entire pipe is finished in a bronze gold color. The wording "Pipe Of Peace" appears along one side, and on the underside of the finely stippled base in raised letters there appears "C. A. Bailey, Designer."

Our concern and interest, of course, has to do with the mechanical banks that he was directly responsible for. Please keep in mind that he had a hand in a number of banks which we are not sure of and possibly never will be. As a designer and pattern maker at Stevens he conceived and made many banks and bank parts, as well as toys and toy parts, and most likely toy pistols as well. We do have an accurate setup on what banks and bank patterns we know he made, plus those identifiable as such by his distinctive type work. Following is a list of these banks:

Stevens Foundry: Gem Registering, World’s Fair Bank, U.S. & Spain Bank, Chief Big Moon, Hen & Chick, Shoot The Chute, Teddy & The Bear, Billy Goat Bank, North Pole Bank, Lion Hunter Bank, Called Out Bank, Boy Scout Bank, Bread Winner Bank, Bismark Bank, Football Bank (Darky & Watermelon), Dentist, Boy Robbing Bird’s Nest (Tree Bank), Professor Pug Frog, Perfection Registering Bank, Milking Cow Bank, Jonah & The Whale (Jonah Emerges), Germania Exchange Bank, Bad Accident.

Cobalt & Middletown: Baby Elephant Bank (Unlocks X O’Clock), Trick Watch Bank, Darky Fisherman Bank, Springing Cat Bank, Chinaman In Boat.

Patterns—Stevens Foundry: Aunt Dinah & The Fairy, Wishbone Bank.

Attributed to Bailey—Stevens Foundry: Bull & Bear Bank, Girl in Victorian Chair, Red Riding Hood Bank.

From the foregoing, please note that Bailey is personally responsible for at least 29 mechanical banks. This represents over 10% of all the known mechanical banks, both domestic and foreign, so we can readily realize what an important factor he was to the mechanical bank era.

Charles Bailey had many patents on mechanical banks and in some cases sold the rights of the patents to J. & E. Stevens Company. The writer has in his possession an original handwritten letter by Bailey to Stevens. This letter, including the letterhead, is as follows:

Designer and Sculptor
Dies, Moulds and Patterns to Order.
Portraits and Busts in Bronze and Plaster a Specialty.

Middletown, Conn.,
March 15, 1887
Paid Mar. 16th

For and in consideration of the sum of two hundred dollars I agree to sell all my right, title and interest in a certain new Toy Money Bank to The J. & E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell, Conn. Said bank is composed of an ornamental base representing a landscape a pond stream of water etc. the principal feature is a Frog which is made to jump out of the pond represented there is an Indian Chief and Squaw which is made to work by the mechanism which causes the frog to jump a wigwam etc. goes to make up the character of the design which is called a Surprise in Camp.

Chas. A. Bailey

The name "Surprise In Camp" referred to in the foregoing letter was Bailey’s original idea for the name of the bank we know as Chief Big Moon. Stevens, when the decision was made to put the bank into production, decided to change the name for one reason or another. This was not an unusual circumstance. Refer to the January, 1963, article on the Boy Robbing Bird’s Nest. Bailey originally named this the "Robber Bank," but Stevens advertised and sold this as the "Tree Bank."

There is more to be said of Bailey and at some time in the future we will go into further details. In closing at this time, however, and as further proof of Bailey’s leadership as a designer of mechanical banks look over the foregoing list of his banks once more. One then realizes that if he had just the banks that Bailey designed or made he would have a fine collection in itself. Some real rarities are included, as well as a number of the most attractive and interesting mechanical banks ever made.


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