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Elephant Howdah (Man Pops Out)
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - September, 1972

72-09.JPG (21530 bytes)One of the more interesting banks in the elephant group of the mechanicals is our choice as No. 212 in the numerical classification. This is the Elephant Howdah (Man Pops Out), and it has the desirable feature of surprise action — the man emerging from the covered howdah. The only marking on the bank is the wording "Pat Apld For" on the underside of the cover of the howdah. This is significant, but, as has been mentioned numbers of times in the past, if this is all we have to go on to date a bank or to try to locate patent papers, it is of no help at all.

At this point, with reference to patent papers, we would like to divert from the Elephant Howdah to go rather briefly into several important factors concerning patented mechanical banks. Here and there some have more or less minimized or misdirected the importance of patent papers and their relationship to the mechanicals so covered. Anyone doing this must not be well informed and misinformation is worse than no information at all. For example, it is reasonably well known that a certain bank patented and dated, we will say 1882, does not necessarily mean that all examples of this particular bank were made in 1882.

Mechanicals with patent dates have the dates they were patented, not manufactured. Keep in mind, of course, that certain numbers of dated mechanical banks were made in the year of their patent date. This now brings up an important point. Any mechanical bank having the inscription "Patent Applied For" thereon, where other examples of the same bank show a patent date, means that particular example of the bank is at least as old as the date, but more likely somewhat prior to the date. This is why we can say the Frog On Round Base patented August 20, 1872 is another bank we can place in the 100 year old category in this year of 1972. Some dated examples of this bank that exist today are in fact 100 years old and others may be 95 years old, but that’s not the point. And should a Frog On Round Base have "Patent Applied For" on the bank, then we know for sure it is at least 100 years old.

Above and beyond the dates of patent papers covering mechanical banks is their importance concerning background, purpose, the designer and inventor, possible manufacturer, and, of course, the drawings. Patent papers on the mechanicals are an interesting study in themselves and they add so much stature and factual information that it would seem incredible to minimize them in any fashion.

Now back to the bank on hand, the Elephant Howdah (Man Pops Out). As mentioned, the inscription "Pat Apld For" appears on the underside of the howdah cover. Well this is one of those mechanicals that to the best of the writer’s knowledge was only made with this inscription and it may well be that no patent was ever issued on the bank. The writer has never seen an example, nor does he know of any, that have a date in place of the inscription. Also he has never seen any patent papers that would apply to the bank. In any case, an old manufacturer’s catalog is helpful to us in establishing a time period for the bank and who made it. It is the illustrated and priced catalog of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia, Pa. They were iron founders and probably best known for their famous line of coffee grinders. The catalog is dated 1884 and on page 37 appears what they called the Enterprise Elephant Bank, which is the bank we now have under discussion. At the time, as shown in their catalog, the price of the bank was $5.00 per dozen, packaged three dozen in a case.

The bank shown is in extra fine original condition and it is a difficult item to find in this fashion. Colors are as follows: The figure of the animal is bronze gold, the blanket is red, and the howdah has blue sides with a red top. Gold decoration is on each bottom side of the howdah. The man inside is wood and he wears his original blue cloth coat. It’s a challenge to find the bank having this figure with the original coat. His hat is painted red, his hair black, and facial features are in black with red mouth and white eyes.

To operate, the trunk is raised up or the figure of the man is pressed down. In either case, both lock or snap into position. The top of the howdah is then manually closed. A coin is then placed in the elephant’s mouth. On pressing the small lever to the rear of the howdah the trunk snaps down knocking the coin inside the elephant. At the same time the figure of the man pops out of the howdah knocking or flipping the cover back. The bank is pictured in this described position after the operation.

In closing we would like to refer once more to mechanicals now in the century old category. Including those that will reach this mark in 1972, we have the following: Serrill Patent Bureau (both types) – Halls Excelsior – Horse Race – Frog on Arched Track – Home Bank (both types) – Frog On Round Base.


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