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SPINNING WHEEL
A National Magazine about ANTIQUES
NOVEMBER 1967

Uncle Sam Bank
by EMMA STILES

THE Uncle Sam mechanical bank was made by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York, in 1886. It is a popular bank, though not as rare as some less colorful ones.

Made of cast iron, and standing 11-1/2 inches high, it has been hand painted with bright colors. Uncle Sam has a ruddy pink face, long white hair that falls to his shoulders, and a beard that extends to the first button on his blue star-spangled vest. Red and white striped trousers, a dark blue frock coat, red and white striped bow tie, and a gray top hat with blue band decorated with silver stars completes his costume.

The figure is represented as standing on a platform of simulated boards, the front decorated with an eagle and the legend "Uncle Sam." He holds a dark green umbrella in his left hand, and a brown carpet bag rests nearby at his feet.

The action is both clever and realistic. A coin is placed between the thumb and four fingers of Uncle Sam's extended right hand. When the action lever (located just in back of the umbrella} is pushed down, his lower jaw goes up closing his mouth, and the carpet bag springs open. When the lever is released the bag closes, the coin drops into a receptacle below, and Uncle Sam's beard, being counterbalanced, bobs up and down for almost a full minute.

Mechanical banks handled coins in a variety of ways, but eventually each one pulled the pennies away from its owner for safekeeping.


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