|NEW YORK WORLD-TELEGRAM AND SUN, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30,
Mechanical Banks Made Saving Fun
Seamen's Bank Has Exhibit Of 19th Century Favorites
By Felice Davis
Saving a penny, though never a popular idea with
candy-loving young fry, must have been made almost irresistibly alluring by
the 19th century mechanical toy banks. By merely slipping a coin into one
and perhaps pulling a lever, fascinating things could be made to happen:
clowns performed, hunters showed their marksmanship, animals did tricks.
The whole story of these cast iron banks may be traced
in the superb collection owned by the Seamen's Bank for Savings and
displayed in its offices at 74 Wall St. and at Fifth Ave. and 45th St. A
special exhibit of the banks, some mechanical, others dismantled to show
their working parts, is now in progress at the downtown office. The
collection begins with a bank in the form of a perfectly detailed little
house. Pull the doorbell and the cupola rises, revealing a monkey in human
dress labeled "cashier." Put a penny on the desk before him and the roof
comes down in place.
This is the famous Excelsior bank, designed and
patented by John Hall, a New Englander, in 1869, that started the vogue for
mechanical banks. It was produced by the J. and E. Stevens Co. of Cromwell,
Conn., Primarily makers of cap pistols, who soon became one of the leading
manufacturers of mechanical banks.
The success of the Excelsior bank (it was still popular
in the 1880s) immediately attracted the attention of designers of mechanical
toys, who saw an opportunity to extend their business. Soon many foundries
along the eastern seaboard and in Pennsylvania and Ohio were turning out
mechanical banks, eventually making them in about 275 designs.
An elaborate design, such as the eagle feeding her
young on an 1883 bank, might require as many as 30 parts. In spite of this,
prices, especially by modern standards, were low. Popular types sold for
about $8.50 a dozen wholesale with $1 the retail price for many. Now a
scarce bank?????ring several hundred dol-?????
???e small, busy ?????anical banks
Other rarities in the collection include the 1877
patent model of the Fort Sumter bank. Another model, never put into
production shows a bull that ???a soldier into a well.
Fakes, too, can be interesting and instructive
collector's items. In this category is a mechanical bank originally intended
as a ??????? skillfully altered?????
Photo captions —
Slip a penny into the "Bad Accident" bank and the child
appears from behind the bush, startling the mule which rears and upsets the
On this bank Uncle Sam (in a familiar gesture) takes
the money, nodding with pleasure as he deposits it in his carpet bag.
At the drop of a coin this merry-go-round bank turns
gaily to the sound of bells.
"Professor Pugfrog's Great Bicycle Feat" is performed
on this bank for a penny by a darling frog watched by two clowns.
All mechanical banks photographed by Phyllis Twachtman
at The Seamen's Bank for Savings.