BOSTON EVENING TRANSCRIPT,
Saturday, January 8, 1938
Old Style Mechanical
Coin Banks Again Are Popular
By Helen J. Lang
Fads and fashions come and go and repeat
themselves every seven years, it is said. Manufacturers have found this
to be the cycle in women's clothing and now bankers are finding that the
teaching of thrift to be a part of the required education of the coming
generation. So, it is not surprising to find that the old style
mechanical coin banks, which once held cherished places on mantle
of a generation ago, are again in "style" and actually being
sold, over the counters of some banking institutions.
Right here in Boston is a collection of nearly
200 coin banks of mechanical type assembled by the late Wilmot R. Evans,
Jr., and which, since his death, have become the property of The Boston
Five Cents Savings Bank of which he was president. Collecting was his
hobby and he indulged in it to full extent. His collection of wooden
cigar store Indians was one of the largest, if not the most extensive,
in the nation, but nothing was ever written about it. Mr. Evans's
hobbies were never spread in printers' ink for,
the public to read
about. He also had a large collection of Japanese prints. He bought
books of all sorts and dealing with multitudinous subjects with a lavish
hand, and his group of whaling relics and curiosities was excellent.
More than a dozen of the best specimens of his
coin banks are on exhibition at the School street headquarters of the
bank. In their original state of preservation, the coin banks made to
catch the few pennies which came to the boy or girl of another day,
actually "stole" the money from the childish hand, put it into
a mechanical contraption which, once a lever was released, put it in
safe keeping. Only mother or the banker could reclaim it and not have
the safe destroyed. Perhaps these banks were the original forerunners of
the safe deposit box!
Indeed, it is true that they were forerunners
of today's Christmas, vacation, tax and coal clubs which make systematic
saving no problem at all to the child of today — provided he's brought
up to save. All sorts of wiles were resorted to in the creation of these
banks, and historic, foreign, peasant and warlike topics are represented
For the young man of years ago whose mind was
actively engaged on sports rather than family chores, there was a neat
bank, called the Calamity Football Boys. Another inspiration of the
manufacturer was a Boy Scout camp complete with wigwam and kettle over a
fire. Baseball was played by the Darktown Battery, and Union soldiers in
blue uniforms and red-lined capes tossed coins away from eager hands.
Perhaps one of the most unique banks in the collection is a splendid
Chinese figure, reclining on a sofa, a spread fan in one hand, ready at
a turn of a button to catch coins of any size.
Of particular interest, too, is a bank
fashioned after a house. The square house is of ample size; it has a red
roof and, at the open door is a merchant with his money tray hanging
about his neck. The pressing of a button flings the coin from the
merchant's lap apron Into the vault.
Various kinds of object lessons were
accomplished by the use of these methods of saving money . War and its
useless waste was brought to attention by an artillery man in red
breeches and blue coat who, after pointing' a shotgun at the youngster
with a bit of money, whirled it into a powder-house.
For the young person whose ambition was to go
to the circus there was a very neat bank called "The Trick
Pony." As the horse circled the track the coin was deposited into
the manger, where it could accumulate until next circus day.
Makers of banks let their imaginations run riot
when subjects were needed. Included in this group could be the hunter
whose false face representing a lion could be guaranteed to scare off
any game in surrounding territory. A colored girl with a mammoth red
mouth eagerly swallowed coins. Red-coated peasant were standing with
guns pointed to tree stumps which would open to receive the coins.
More than three-quarters of a century has
elapsed since someone invented these irresistible banks. They are still
being manufactured, and if the subjects of today are more modern than
those in the Evans collection at The Five Cents Savings Bank, it's only
right to call it "the trend of events."