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The HARTFORD BANKER — December, 1937, pages 4 and five

Mechanical Penny Banks
A Brief History and Origin
By MARK HABER, Collector

        During the past five years a great deal of interest has been displayed in acquiring mechanical penny banks by various collectors throughout the country. Many of these banks are marvels of mechanical ingenuity and it is no small wonder that this hobby is quickly becoming one of the most popular among collectors of Americana. Most interest seems to be centered in the New England States, but of late the demand for these banks has spread throughout the entire country.
        Mechanical banks are those in which some action must take place (usually humorous figures), before a coin is deposited. The weight of a coin sometimes produces this. More frequently, however, a lever is pressed which causes the coin to be propelled or dropped through a coin trap.
        These banks were preceded by a great variety of still or dumb banks, which were made of pottery, porcelain, glass, wood, iron, and in a great variety of designs.
        The earliest mechanical bank was invented and designed by Mr. Frank Hall, about 1865, and was known as Hall's Excelsior Bank. This was quite a success and was followed by Hall's Lilliput Bank. These were manufactured for Mr. Hall by The J. & E. Stevens Co. in Cromwell, Connecticut. They enjoyed such popularity that Stevens Co. made a few mechanical banks of different design and marketed these with equal success. Mr. Hall claimed that this was an infringement on his patent rights inasmuch as the banks were mechanical even though of different design. The Stevens Co. then decided to buy Mr. Hall's patent and they paid him a royalty on every bank manufactured thereafter. There followed a succession of banks of many unusual patterns and clever designs by Mr. Hall and later by Mr. Bailey of Cromwell, who was a very skillful pattern maker. The successful sales of these banks prompted other manufacturers throughout the East to make their own designs and market them. These were the Enterprise Manufacturing Co., Philadelphia; The Kenton Hardware Manufacturing Co., Kenton, Ohio; a nameless maker located at Bethlehem, Penna. credited with the design of Jonah and the Whale; a company which marked its banks Excelsior series; I. B. & Co., an unknown maker believed to be located in Buffalo, N. Y. The demand and greatest height of popularity seems to have been about 1880 to 1890 and interest gradually waned from that period until makers found it no longer profitable to make them.
        There are about 300 known varieties of these banks, although some of these have as yet not been found. The old Stevens Co. catalogs, which I had the good fortune to obtain lists about 31 of these, many of which are very desirable among collectors. The so-called shooting banks were very popular in their day. The Creedmore bank has a soldier shooting a penny into a tree trunk. Another shooting variety is William Tell shooting the apple from his son's head with a penny which is placed on his gun. Still another is Teddy and the Bear. Here Teddy gets a surprise as a bear pops his head up from the tree trunk as the penny is fired from his gun. The Bear Hunt shows an Indian shooting a bear, and there are several other shooting varieties equally as interesting. There are others which comprise the Carnival series. Some of these are the Dog jumping through a hoop which is held by a clown, the Merry-Go-Round, Clown, Harlequin and Columbine, Punch and Judy Theatre, and Clown Astride a Ball. Banks caricaturing the Negro comprise a large and humorous group, the Jolly Nigger Bank being the most popular at the time. Here he swallows the penny which is placed on his outstretched hand, while he rolls his eyes appreciatively at the same time. Another is a colored mammy who feeds her child a penny which is placed on a spoon, and the child swallows it accompanied by kicking of legs, etc. A seated darky is surprises by a fractious mule which turns around, rears his hind legs and kicks him over. At the same time the coin is deposited, this being caused by the darky falling over. This bank is marked, "I always did 'spise a mule". An interesting bank is the dentist pulling a tooth. Here both the darky and the dentist are thrown back violently when the dentist, his left knee on the patient's body, after great effort, finally extracts the tooth. The penny falls into the bank as the dentist falls back. The Darktown Battery is another interesting specimen. Here the pitcher throws the penny clear across the bank; the batter turns his head and swings at the flying penny. He misses. The catcher moves his head forward, is about to catch it, but also misses. A little trap door opens in the catcher's body just in time to receive the flying penny. This is all perfectly timed and cleverly designed.
        Humor is characteristic if not predominant in the design of most mechanical banks. A few examples are Pig in the High Chair, Jonah and the Whale, Milking Cow, the Initiating Bank, First Degree, and Professor Pugfrog's Great Bicycle Feat. Satirical examples are Paddy and his Pig and the Tammany Bank. The latter bank has Boss Tweed seated on a chair. A coin placed in his outstretched hand is immediately pocketed in his vest, and he graciously acknowledges the donation by nodding his head.
        A few of the outstanding collectors are Dr. Arthur E. Corby, of New York City, who has by far the largest and most complete collection, comprising about 2700 mechanical and still banks. Elmer Rand Jacobs, Vice President of Seamen's Bank for Saving in New York City, has a permanent exhibition on the main floor of the bank, and is responsible for most converts of this hobby and is an early pioneer. Walter P. Chrysler is an avid collector and another fine collection is to be found at the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank, the banks having been collected by Wilmont R. Evans, former President of the bank. These came to the bank through his estate. Another pioneer collector is Andrew Emerine, of Fostoria, Ohio. He has a splendid collection. Mr. William F. Ferguson of the Bank for Savings in New York is another outstanding collector.
        My own collection consists of about 35 banks and I hope to add many more as time goes on. They are on exhibition at the Children's Museum in Hartford, Conn., and afford the children a great deal of amusement. The grown-ups, too, find them interesting. Some remember having had one of these banks and they recall the days when they would anxiously await their penny so they could watch their bank go through its funny antics before the coin was deposited.

The HARTFORD BANKER — December, 1937, page 7


        "There never was a time in the history of banking that cool heads, good minds and well rounded out experience counts for so much as today.
        Distress signals from foreign shores where war and rumors of war, cause erratic movements in our securities markets. These changes require skillful handling and careful watching by bank officers.
        Strikes and threatened labor troubles in our industries make necessary close supervision of the business accounts of those borrowers whose increased operating expenses reflect unfavorable changes in their financial statements. Personal loans, perhaps one of the most radical changes in bank loaning, while a move in the right direction in building up good will in the community, must be given constant attention as abuses may creep in and collection practices become indifferently administered.
        But banking as a profession is becoming the field that increasingly attracts the finest young men and women seeking business connections. It is conducted by officers and personnel of a very high order; it will bring to those who seek banking as their vocation rewards proportionate to the intelligent application to their tasks and loyalty to their institutions."

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