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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 pieces 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 therein.
     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."


 

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