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Walter's Banks

WE happen to be the only journalist ever permitted to see Walter Chrysler's collection of penny banks, and we're going to tell you all about them. The hell with whether or not you're interested. Mr. Chrysler, it seems, has been collecting banks for three years but keeping it pretty much of a secret, because he was afraid too much publicity might interfere with his negotiations with dealers. Now he has almost a thousand banks, and he doesn't care who knows it. He received us last week in his office on the fifty-sixth floor of the Chrysler Building, and he and his secretary, a Mr. Morrison, told us the whole story. You probably didn't know about it, but penny banks are now popular as a collector's item.
      The great penny-bank period was from 1870 to the end of the century, and collectors will tell you that the banks, like Currier & Ives prints, reflect their period, ranging in subject from representations of Civil War soldiers in forts to Teddy Roosevelt shooting a bear. There are two sorts of banks, stationary and mechanical: the stationary kind are just more or less elaborately sculptured affairs of cast iron or pottery, with slots for pennies; the mechanical banks all do things when you drop in a penny - a clown does a little dance, Buster Brown and his dog Tige go down a chute-the-chutes, an American gunboat sinks a Spanish ship, and God , only knows what else. Mr. Chrysler tries to keep all the banks working perfectly, and when he acquires a bank with a missing part he has a new one made. One of his favorites is the Snapping Bulldog, which snatches a penny out of a man's hand and gobbles it up. "Watch this," he said to us, putting a penny in the man's hand. Nothing happened, "Somebody's been playing with this," said Mr. Chrysler sternly. "People sneak in and play with them all the time." He wound up the bank, and this time it worked O.K. ; the bulldog engulfed the penny in a series of well-cadenced gobbles. Mr. Chrysler moved about his office, operating all his favorite mechanical banks. (He keeps them right where he works, on shelves. The stationary banks are in a little side room. ) There was Prof. Pugfrog on the Bicycle, Darktown Baseball Battery, Dentist Pulling Tooth from Colored Man's Mouth, Owl Blinking His Eyes, and a figure called Young Tammany, made in the seventies, who dropped a penny into his poke and waved his hand at you in thanks.


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