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Halls Excelsior Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - May, 1983

83-05.JPG (12437 bytes)Last month’s April article covered one of the, or possibly, the most popular and best known of all the mechanical banks. It was designed and patented by John Hall and made by Stevens. Hall comes to the front once again, as well as Stevens, as we reach our choice for No. 301 in the numerical classification. This is the Halls Excelsior Bank, famous for the fact it is the earliest known and patented cast iron mechanical bank.

That is quite a distinction for a cast iron mechanical, and it all started December 21st, 1869, when the patent was issued to John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts. The patent drawings show a picture of a man with a large moustache, instead of the monkey seated at the desk as the bank was actually made. Hall refers to the bank as a ‘Toy Safe or Bank’. His patent carefully covers the fact that the weight of a coin when placed on the desk causes the operation — the top, with the figure, falling into place and the coin dropping inside the bank. Also covered is the movement of the head of the figure. At variance with the production bank, the drawings show the pull bell cord opening the top in a different fashion — going outside the back of the bank and on to the top, which shows a raised finial where the bell cord is attached. Other than the noted two exceptions, the bank itself has the same configuration as those of the patent drawings.

On April 17th, 1877, the patent was re-issued to Hall, this time the patent drawings still showed the figure of a man, rather than a monkey. This man, however, has no large moustache or hat. Otherwise, the drawings are like those of 1869.

The bank shown is in extra fine condition, no repairs and all original. It is hard to find in this fashion, particularly so with the original arms on the monkey and the paper cashier label in back of the head of the monkey. The bank pictured is from the extensive collection of Wally Tudor, Chicago, Illinois.

To operate, the glass bead bell cord is pulled, causing the top to lift into the position as shown in the photo. As the top lifts, the monkey turns his head back and forth a number of times as a person would when indicating ‘no’. A coin is then placed on the desk and the weight causes the top to drop back in place with the coin falling inside the building.

Colors are as follows: The building is an all over tan with a red finial-like top and the roof striped in blue and red. The name on the front is in blue and red striping is around the windows and the front corners. The steps are red, the base blue and the doorway outlined in blue. The monkey has black features on a pinkish face. He wears a red jacket and white shirt with black buttons.


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