The Camera Bank, No. 42, in our numerical classification of mechanical banks, is an intriguing item with a definite greater appeal to the advanced collector and, like the American Bank, represents a specific object. Also, like the American Bank, it is a border-line case between semi-mechanical and mechanical since in the strictest sense it is a semi-mechanical bank.
To the best of the writers knowledge the designer of the Camera Bank is not known and apparently it was never patented since no patent papers have been found that would cover the bank. The manufacturer is known, however, as the bank was made by the Wrightsville Hardware Company of Mount Joy, Pa. There is a bit of folklore surrounding the Camera Bank that has to do with the Eastman Company and their direct effect on the Camera Bank being taken off the market due to the use of the word "Camera." The same type story is told of a Stevens still bank that was called the Kodak Bank. How much truth exists in either case has, to the best of the writers knowledge, never been proven. In any event, its a harmless story, true or not, and has to do with George Eastman manufacturing and using the word "Camera" and then later on adopting the name "Kodak" for his product. The alleged stoppage of the manufacture of the Camera Bank by Eastman is suggested as one reason for its rarity today.
The bank shown was obtained by the writer through the good help of David Hollander, Riverdale, New York City. It is from the famous Walter Chrysler collection which had been in storage for seventeen years. Mr. Hollander, who is handling the disposal of the complete collection, has been involved in this in recent months and, of course, some very desirable mechanical banks have thus come on the market. The Camera Bank is one of the rare, desirable, items from the Chrysler collection and it is in excellent original condition. The camera itself is a bronze gold type of paint and the tri-legged base is painted black. The bellows section of the camera is a pale greenish color. The picture is a vari-colored item of a small boy holding a mask in his hand. The word "Camera" appears on the rear section of the bank just in front of the picture and the word "Bank" is on the front section. Both words are cast in simple raised letters.
As to the action of the bank, it is extremely simple. By depressing and releasing the lever, located in the left rear corner of the camera, the picture is caused to pop up and then down. The picture is in a small cast iron frame that moves up and down, however, the frame cannot be pulled out of the bank itself. The coin slot is located across the rear part of the bank between the picture and the word "Camera." Coins can be dropped into this slot at will and have no connection whatever with the action. In this respect it is exactly like the American Bank, and in the strictest definition is a semi-mechanical bank. But again, as in the case of the American Bank, the writer is not prone to try to change this as tradition has for some time established the Camera Bank as a mechanical bank. Its quite a desirable little item and the action, while not spectacular, is very appropriate and offers an all-around attractive bank.
Since the Camera Bank is of rather small size its dimensions are of interest. It is four inches high overall and the camera itself is four inches long and two inches wide. Coins are removed by unscrewing the tripod base from the camera itself. In so doing the camera section comes apart since the screw part of the tripod base holds the bank together.
On numbers of occasions and in various accounts the Camera Bank and the American Bank have been represented as having the mechanical action coordinated with the insertion of the coin. Of course this is not true and apparently the motive has been to make them more desirable and more truly mechanical banks. This is completely unnecessary as each is well established on its own just the way they originally and actually were made.
The Camera bank is a very desirable addition to any collection but, to repeat, it is probably more greatly appreciated by the advanced collector. It is a very hard item to find and none have turned up in recent years other than those sold from private collections.