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The Mary Roebling Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1967

67-02a.JPG (27557 bytes)We divert from our usual dissertation on old or antique mechanical banks this month to give recognition to a very unusual animated savings device of recent manufacture. The writer in his normal routine is not concerned with so-called modern mechanical banks which are being made today. There are some very clever ones such as the Haunted House, Rover, Fingers, and the Hole-In-One. These include operations by battery powered motors and wind-up. They undoubtedly in future years will become collector’s items. However, there is no question, while of modern manufacture, the Mary Roebling Bank is and will increasingly become a desirable bank to collectors. There are reasons for this, of course, and they mainly surround the circumstances under which the bank was made.

To begin with, Mrs. Mary G. Roebling is Chairman of the Board of the Trenton Trust Company in Trenton, N.J., and in addition to being a very active busy woman she sets aside certain time to the avocation of collecting mechanical banks and has a deep interest in her collection. Sometime prior to 1963, the 75th anniversary of her bank the Trenton Trust, Mrs. Roebling came up with the idea of creating a mechanical bank to commemorate the occasion. She wanted the bank to have the characteristics of the old cast iron type and be made in the same fashion and material. This required a bit of ingenuity on her part, and to begin with she acquired the services of the well known sculptor, Anthony Greenwood of Philadelphia, Pa. He worked for some six months to develop the original idea and two working models were made. These at a later date completely and mysteriously disappeared.

It was decided by Mrs. Roebling to make a limited edition of 200 of the banks, each to be numbered. The Grey Iron Casting Company of Mt. Joy, Pa., made the bank from designs by J.E. Brubaker. The Mary Roebling-Trenton Trust mechanical bank was designed to symbolize the free enterprise system upon which our country’s economy thrives — to commemorate 25 years during which Mrs. Roebling has served as President and Chairman of the Board of Trenton Trust—to show the bank’s location, significant in historic times, as well as today, where it is the highest building in Trenton.

67-02b.JPG (28087 bytes)As to the mechanical bank itself (see Picture 1), the base is simulated red cobblestone like long gone streets of old Trenton, where a historic battle for freedom was fought and won by our Revolutionary ancestors. On this base stands a scaled down replica of the Trenton Trust bank building painted cream with brown accents, each window and door of its 14 stories clearly defined. Atop the building is a large white and gold sign "Trenton Trust," much like the electric sign on the actual building. Seated on a gray office type chair is a figure representation of Mary Roebling dressed in a blue dress with white ruffled collar. Her hair is gold with highlighting and she holds in her lap a large gold key with the word "Security" inscribed thereon. The front panel of the base is white with "75th Anniversary" in gold. The rear panel in the same colors has the wording "Trenton Trust F.D.I.C." The bottom base plate contains the following information cast in raised letters: "Created for Mary Roebling by Anthony Greenwood – Sculptor; J.E. Brubaker – Designer; Grey Iron Casting Company – Founders; one of 200 Pieces, ‘The Brotherhood For Survival of Free Enterprise’ — M.G.R."

The bank operates as follows: A coin of any size, including a silver dollar, is first placed on the key as shown in Picture 1. The Trenton Trust sign on top of the building is then pressed down and it snaps into place (the bank is pictured with the sign up to better illustrate same). A lever, located to the back of the building, is then pressed down. Mrs. Roebling’s right arm raises and moves forward causing the coin to slide from the key into the bank, Picture 2. At the same time her head turns toward the building and the sign atop the building springs into the position as shown. All parts except the sign return automatically to position on releasing the lever. The sign is again pushed down and the bank is ready for another coin.

As previously mentioned, each bank is numbered and, of course, Mrs. Roebling has No. 1. A limited number were presented by Mrs. Roebling to certain individuals on the occasion of a special event held by her to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Trenton Trust in 1963. Other well known outstanding possessors of the bank are General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hon. James J. Saxon, Governor Richard Hughes, Brig. General David Sarnoff, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Drew Pearson, Lawrence Litchfield, Jr., and many more.

The circumstances, reasons, and so on surrounding the production of the Mary Roebling Bank are quite unique. It is an authentically produced limited production item. As years go on there is no question as to its becoming an increasingly valuable desirable collector’s item. The writer on the occasion of a recent visit with Mrs. Roebling spent a very interesting and entertaining Sunday afternoon with her in her town house in Trenton. During and after a fine luncheon we discussed her mechanical bank hobby and her banking business. Despite a demanding schedule, Mrs. Roebling finds time for her banks and other collections, including paintings, art work, and even to rare exquisite buttons. Needless to say, the writer was very pleased when on this occasion Mrs. Roebling presented one of her banks to him. She is to be complimented for creating a very unique bank — a modern day mechanical made despite many obstacles and problems of manufacture and made in the tradition and design of the treasured old mechanical banks. In closing it is of interest to note that Mrs. Roebling used Bank No. 1 as the centerpiece of the luncheon table.

 

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