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SPORTS ANTIQUE 

OF THE WEEK

November 15th- 21st 2009

Standout items 

by SportsAntiques.com

 

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THIS WEEKS FEATURE

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c1905 

CALAMITY MECHANICAL BANK

Made of cast iron by J&E Stevens

6" tall by 4 1/2" wide by 7 1/2" deep 

Auctioned 12/11/08 by Morphy's, Denver PA 

 Sold for $33,500.00

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......I have some unanswered questions about Dr. James Bowen's influence that prompted him to make a football bank. He was from Philadelphia Pennsylvania; did he watch some University of Pennsylvania football games? Penn was a major team in American football around the turn of the 19th century. J&E Stevens was in Cromwell Connecticut which is only 30 miles from New Haven, the home of the Yale Bulldogs, among the biggest names in football when this bank was made.  Did Bowen get a flash of brilliance to make a football bank while watching the Bulldogs? I speculate he probably did go to some college games and would have at least been influenced if by the wild popularity of the game........ 

 

This Calamity mechanical bank sold for $33,500.00 in Morphy's auction December 2008. Calamity banks were made of cast iron by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, 1843-1950s. Dr. James H. Bowen of Philadelphia 1877-1906 was the inventor and designer of the Calamity. Three spring loaded football players, a ball carrier flanked by two tacklers, make up the bank's action. It is activated by first pulling back the tacklers and cocking them in place. The ball carrier automatically slides on a track to the rear as this is done. A coin is then placed in a slot in front of the players. A small bowed lever at the front right is then pushed, and the ball carrier quickly slides/snaps about three inches forward while the tacklers swing/snap forward and surround the ball carrier. Simultaneously the coin drops down into a chamber. The Calamity is one of 43 cast iron mechanical banks J&E Stevens produced, and is one of the rarest, with the most action. It's kind of a bummer  if you owned one, you couldn't really play with it much, as the football players literally collide and cause paint loss. Which of course devalues them. 

 

There were almost endless themes of mechanical banks produced around the turn darktown.jpg (77239 bytes)of the 19th century but there were only two important sports related banks of mention. The Calamity football, and the Darktown Battery baseball. Both were designed by Bowen. I have wanted a calamity for a long time but haven't nailed one yet. Actually it's sort of a hole in my toy collection. But they're just so expensive, I can buy a lot of $tuff for what it would take to buy one.

 

EXAMPLES OF SOME OF THE MANY CAST IRON MECHANICAL BANKS PRODUCED AT THE TURN OF THE 19TH CENTURY

trickdogbank.jpg (4727 bytes)

artillerybank.jpg (4683 bytes)

indianandbear.jpg (4974 bytes)

dentistsmall.jpg (3718 bytes)

jonaandthewhalebank.jpg (3166 bytes)

williamtellbank.jpg (4061 bytes)

spiseamulebank.jpg (4665 bytes)

grenadierbank.jpg (3825 bytes)

girlskippingrope.jpg (5140 bytes)

twomonkeysbank.jpg (4724 bytes)

speakingdogbank.jpg (5174 bytes)

worldsfair.jpg (3883 bytes)

 

I have some unanswered questions about Dr. James Bowen's influence that prompted him to make a football bank. He was from Philadelphia Pennsylvania; did he watch some University of Pennsylvania football games? Penn was a major team in American football around the turn of the 19th century. J&E Stevens was in Cromwell Connecticut which is only 30 miles from New Haven, the home of the Yale Bulldogs, among the biggest names in football when this bank was made.  Did Bowen get a flash of brilliance to make a football bank while watching the Bulldogs? I speculate he probably did go to some college games and would have at least been influenced if by the wild popularity of the game. I do know the ball carrier came in a choice of blue or red sleeves. Blue would have represented Yale and red Harvard. I doubt we'll ever know for sure but something had to turn the gears of inspiration which resulted in this bank.

 

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AUCTION PRICES REALIZED FOR CALAMITY BANKS MARCH 1996- DECEMBER 2008

Bertoia Auctions B, Morphy Auctions M, RSL Auctions R.

Mar. 1996 (B)
Oct. 1996 (B)
Jun. 1998 (B)
May 1998 Sax, Perelman (B)
Oct. 1998 (B)
Oct. 1999 (B)
Apr. 2000 (B)
Oct. 2000 (B)
May 2001 (B)
Sep. 2001 Norman (B)
Nov. 2001 (B)
Jun. 2002 (B)
Oct. 2002 (B)
Apr. 2004 (B)
Sep. 2004 (M)
Sep. 2005 (M)
Nov. 2005 (B)
Nov. 2005 Ayer (R)
Apr. 2006 (M)
Jun. 2006 (M)
Jun. 2006 (M)
Jun. 2006 Knops (R)

Jun. 2007 Mosler, Rodrigue (R)
Oct. 2007 Steckbeck (M)
Mar. 2008 Goldstein (R)
Oct. 2008 (R)
Dec. 2008 (M)
Dec. 2008 (M)

Pristine
Very good
Excellent
Near mint, with original box
Fair
Very good
Excellent
Pristine
Very good, replaced gear & left tackle
Near Mint, with box (no lid)
Excellent
Replaced figures
Pristine
Excellent, repair & crack
Near mint
Excellent, hairline crack at rt. tackler
Touch up & repairs, very good
Very fine, some restoration to rt. tackler
Near mint
Exc., left tackler replaced, gear rep'd
VG, gear repair, red redone on back
Excellent, minor restoration to left tackler
Very fine
Near mint plus, with box (no lid)
Pristine
Fine, left tackler & one gear replaced
Near mint
Excellent, early repaint to red

 $44,000
$9,900
$16,500
$90,500
$12,100
$12,100
$19,800
$19,800
$7,700
$73,700
$12,100
$4,500
$34,100
$23,100
$22,000
$21,280
$5,225
$16,000
$19,040
$5,500
$4,400
$16,100
$11,115
$69,000
$35,250
$8,225
$33,350
$6,325

Courtesy Mechanical Bank Collectors of America

www.mechanicalbanks.org

 

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