The Herald, Vol. XIII,
November 1, 1946, No. 15
PUBLISHED BY THE STUDENTS OF THE EDISON INSTITUTE SCHOOLS
|HERALD, November 1, 1946, Vol.
XIII, No. 15
PUBLISHED BY THE STUDENTS OF THE EDISON INSTITUTE SCHOOLS
A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED
Mechanical Toy Banks
By Joan Apesech
THE toy banks of yesterday were much more complicated and sturdy than
the penny banks of today. But to whom are we indebted for the child's
savings bank? Was it the children themselves wanting to save their money
to buy a Christmas present for mother, or was it some genius—an
ironfounder seeking profits from a by-product? Perhaps it was the
children's parents who wanted them to save money for a rainy day, and by
inventing a mechanical toy bank they fascinated the child so that he
began to save his pennies. During the long months of the child's year,
the small gaudy toy bank accumulated its hoard of pennies through work,
gifts, and rewards. Then at Christmas time it was slowly emptied by a
tedious process of shaking and tilting until coins slipped out one by
one. The coins finally left their prison to go on to their adventurous
course through many pockets.
There is no definite literature on the beginning of
children's savings banks that can be found. Searches fail to bring the
story of their origin. The little information which is to be had
indicates that they made their first appearance not earlier than the
middle of the last century, perhaps about 1860. Many iron foundries were
competing and striving to produce the most attractive toy banks. As
shown by patents, the banks reached their peak of popularity about 1885,
when more than 600 different varieties were being retailed. At this time
a number of "dumb" or "still" banks were sold at $6 to $12 a dozen to
general storekeepers. To the customers they sold at $1 to $2.50 each,
those being the highest prices. The mechanical banks sold from $3 to
$10. The first banks made were those of Creed Moor, an eagle, Tammany,
William Tell, and the speaking dog. There are many reproductions of
Paddy and his pig, the trick dog, the monkey bank, and an elephant
throwing a coin into its back, which our grandparents might have used
for saving their pennies.
Most of these mechanical and still banks were made of
cast iron but a few were made of tin. All of these banks were painted
with bright colors, which also helped to attract the children's
attention. Collectors of these old-time banks find them very scarce.
Some of them are so rare that they are invaluable, for there are no
duplicates. Unfortunately, these banks are no longer made today and most
all of them are owned by collectors.
Nearly all of the banks had patent papers. These papers
were frequently of considerable help where a missing part was needed and
the owner did not have access to a duplicate bank. One of the rules of
the patent office, made effective about 1870, was that when a bank was
placed on the market the patent papers must be filed within a period of
two years before or after the bank's manufacture in order to secure
protection. Usually comparison of the patent papers with the bank
indicate which came first, the patent or the bank.
Mechanical toy banks are quite complicated
mechanically. The Tammany bank, for example, has a complicated
structure. The arm is held up by a spring. The coin is placed in the
hands of the seated figure, which is held in an upward position by a
trigger wire. When the trigger wire is released, the weight of the coin
over-balances the spring, dropping the coin in the pocket. This bank was
invented by John Hall, of Watertown, Massachusetts, on December 23,
1873. The fact that the coin goes into the politician's pocket is of
more interest when details of the Tammany organization are known.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, this organization, with
only occasional intermissions, ruled New York City during the nineteenth
century. The most famous individual associated with the group is William
M. "Boss" Tweed. The organization reached its climax under the rule of
this leader, and the toy bank described may be said to justly picture
There is a great number of toy banks in the collection
in The Edison Institute Museum. The banks are on display in two huge
show cases and in the children's toy shop. In this collection of banks
is a trick dog bank, an Uncle Sam bank, a William Tell bank, an
Indian-shoots-bear bank, a monkey bank, a girl skipping rope bank, and
many other clever toy banks.
The trick dog bank is one of the most fascinating. It
is mounted on a green iron stand. One places a penny in the dog's mouth
and touches the lever, then the dog jumps through the hoop, held by a
brightly painted clown, and the penny drops into a red iron barrel.
Another clever toy bank is the darktown battery bank. A
pitcher is standing up ready to pitch and a coin is placed in his hand.
When a lever is pressed the coin goes to the slot in the catcher.
A very original mechanical bank is the eagle and her
eaglets. On the pressure of the snake head, in the eagle's mouth, the
eagle spreads her wings, tilts her body, and drops the coin into the
nest. Her two eaglets then raise their bodies and open their mouths.
The William Tell bank does just what its name says.
William Tell shoots a coin into the castle behind his son's head.
The Uncle Sam bank is painted in red, white, and blue.
Uncle Sam drops his saving into a carpet-bag that opens and closes,
while his goatee wags in evidence of satisfaction.
The frog bank is painted a bright green with a little
frog sitting on the back of a larger frog. The little frog kicks a coin
toward the larger frog, which opens his mouth to receive the offering.
The Creed Moor bank consists of a soldier shooting a
penny into a tree trunk. The penny is placed on the top of the gun and
when the lever is released the penny sails straight into the slot of the
Common banks patterned on large square mansions, such
as The Independence Hall entrance, held far more coins. Some of the
large banks were just large buildings with the inscription "Savings
Bank" above the door. Below was a slot where the coins found sanctuary.
After watching one of these toy banks work, one can see
what a thrill children must have had in saving their pennies. The
children always had a full cent's worth of fun for every coin deposited.
But sometimes those coins didn't always stay in their places, for as
stories often go, deep in the night hardened fathers or older brothers
and sisters, crept into the chamber of an innocent child fast asleep,
and after much tugging and pulling, finally emptied the cherished toy
bank, which stood high upon the shelf, and quietly tiptoed out.
But ordinarily the hoarded pennies must have created
quite a stir when Christmas or birthday time came 'round and the
glittering pile cascaded from the bank. The eternal problem of "what to
buy" then arose.
Would it be carpet slippers for father? A red sled for
brother? Oranges and peppermint candy for oneself? Or perhaps some child
carefully trained to think about the value of money might want to save
the whole cherished pile. How pleasant it was to shake the bank and hear
the comfortable sound of copper pennies! More real, indeed, than the
cold unreality of a bank book, with its unapproachable neat figures that
somehow never seemed as real and personal as the entertaining "friend"
who not only gave a show for the money but saved the money too!
How to Save
A small penny a day
Is a very good way
To fill up your bank to the brim.
Just keep that in mind,
And soon you will find
Your bank account's no longer slim.
If you are but stern,
It is soon you will learn
The amazing results that will come!
Just a penny a day!
That's exactly the way!
And soon you've a goodly large sum.
—The Giant Recitation Book.
Text from below images. . .
Joan expectantly puts a coin into one of the banks, just as many former
owners must have, to watch the girl jump rope.
Plenty of fun for a penny is given the thrifty child who watches the
monkey carry the money to the organ grinder.
A miniature rodeo is provided for just a penny as the balky mule tries
to throw the rider.
"Boss" Tweed is here shown as he carries a coin to his own pocket. This
feature makes the bank historically interesting.
When the coin is placed in the eagle's beak and the lever pressed, she
feeds the hungry eaglets the penny while they open their mouths.
This is a close-up of the girl who jumps rope, always ready to provide
amusement for the children.
Joan Apesech, as she examines some of the mechanical toy banks in The
Edison Institute Museum. The ingenuity of the makers is one of the
outstanding features of the collection, which is one of the most
complete to be found.
Always keeping his enemy at bay, the clever monkey bribes the hungry
lion with pennies.