Humpty Dumpty Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - January, 1975

75-01.JPG (13463 bytes)The ever popular circus theme continues as we reach No. 243 in the numerical classification and our choice of the Humpty Dumpty Bank. As a subject matter the circus theme offers a varied and appealing group of performers, both people and animals. Insofar as mechanical banks are concerned, clowns would seem to be in the majority and dominate the circus group. And what could be more appropriate than a clown from a child’s viewpoint in a toy animated savings device. The main manufacturers of mechanical banks such as J. & E. Stevens, Shepard Hardware Company, and Hubley Manufacturing Company all made circus type mechanical banks and two better known English manufacturers, John Harper & Company, Ltd. and Chamberlin and Hill, Ltd. did the same. This was a wise choice, particularly so with Stevens, Shepard, and Hubley since several of their clown-circus banks enjoyed wide popularity over a number of years in their period.

The Humpty Dumpty is an exceptionally well made representation of a clown and a member of the bust group as well as the circus group. It was made by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, N.Y., and well represents their extra care in their fine paint work. There’s no question but that Shepard excelled in the painting of their mechanicals. Particularly so with detail of eyes on the various figures of their banks. Generally speaking, Shepard used a rather heavy coat of paint on the overall respective bank. This was good, but what is disadvantageous about it is the fact that with age the paint tends to chip rather readily, at least as compared to some of the Stevens banks with lighter coats of paint. There is a disadvantage here also, however, since light coats of paint, while they did not readily chip with age, did tend to wear off somewhat with any degree of handling.

The Humpty Dumpty was patented under a regular patent March 14, 1882, by C. G. Shepard and Peter Adams, Jr. of Buffalo, with Adams as assignor to Walter J. Shepard. This patent actually pictures the Jolly Nigger Bank in the various drawings numbered 1 through 7. The Humpty Dumpty operates the same and has the same mechanism as the Jolly Nigger. Shepard and Adams were then issued a design patent June 17, 1884, covering the configuration of the bank. The design patent drawing is practically identical to the bank as manufactured. Also, and this is unusual, the bank was patented in Canada and registered in England. The individuals involved certainly wanted to be sure no one else would copy their bank. Most certainly in appearance Humpty Dumpty stands alone as made by Shepard with no other bank like it. True there is the rare English Clown Bank bust, but it looks nothing like Humpty Dumpty, although it does operate the same, and was made years after the patents covering Humpty Dumpty ran out.

The bank shown is in rather fine condition, all original with no repairs. While there are some chips in the paint, they are rather minimal for a Humpty Dumpty Bank. Most examples of this bank are considerably more chipped than the one pictured. It’s extremely difficult to find a fine example of the Humpty Dumpty. It is a very colorful bank most attractively painted. The peaked hat is bright red as are the eyebrows, lips and markings on his face. His face is white, gray eyes with black pupils, and a red tongue. His collar is a white tinted blue with decorations in brick red, yellow and blue. The right half of his jacket is bright red decorated in yellow, blue, white and brick red. The left half of the jacket is blue decorated in bright red, yellow, white and brick red. The extended right hand is cream color. The name ‘Humpty Dumpty Bank’ is in raised letters in a half circle on the back. Speaking of the name it would be interesting to know just why Shepard or whoever named the bank Humpty Dumpty. This has always puzzled the writer but so far he has not come up with any logical explanation.

The bank has a great base plate with all patent information thereon in raised letters. The Canadian patent date, by the way, is March 27, 1883.

The bank operates like most of the bust type. A coin is placed in his extended right hand, depressing the lever in the back left shoulder causes the hand to lift to his mouth and the coin goes in as the tongue recedes. At the same time his eyes roll upward. Parts return to position as pictured when the lever is released.