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THE BOSTON HERALD, Sunday, July 30, 1939

Lot of Old Penny Banks on Show Recall Thrift of Forebears

"Fantastic souvenirs of Victorian thrift, in the form of mechanical iron banks which do tricks before swallowing their coins, will be on display this week in the Boston Penny Savings Bank at 1375 Washington street. The show Includes 50 banks from the collection of Mark Haber of Hartford, Ct., and will bring memories of giddy youth to many oldsters.
      For example, there Is Prof. Pugfrog's great bicycle feat. This bank, Rube Goldberg affair, gets set in motion by the dropping of a coin in Its slot. Immediately a frog turns a somersault from a tiny bicycle, tosses the penny into a clown's basket and causes a music rack to hit Mother Goose on the nose. All this used to be the reward of saving.
      The magician bank causes a penny to disappear under the tall hat of a wizard. Another, In the form of a whale, swallows a penny instead of Jonah, while Jonah looks on with relief. There are banks with dancing bears and chimes, with colored mammies who swallow coin of the realm with the relish usually given chicken; cat and mouse banks. bullfrog banks and banks in human form which raise money to their mouths without any prompting or winding. All were made between 1865 and 1900, cast and painted by hand. New England was the great manufacturing source and today is the region where such collectors as Haber and Walter P. Chrysler, the motor manufacturer. find their choicest Items.
      Collectors' catalogues list about 230 different kinds of mechanical banks, but no one person has so many. Haber owns about 70. Only one of the seven or eight foundries which used to make the banks now exists. That is the Stevens foundry  in Cromwell, Ct. But it turns out cap pistols now. Banks which used to retail for $2, in a period when a man worked 12 hours a day for about $14 a week, could not be made for less than $10 under modern conditions. Haber paid $52 for his Prof. Pugfrog confection, and had to send to England to get it, although it was made here about 1880.
      Although the first American makers thought they were putting something new on the market with mechanical banks, it was an old story to those faraway inventors of gunpowder. tne Chinese. A performing bear baak im the Metropolitan Museum in New York proves that it belongs to the Han Dynasty period (206 B. C. - A. D. 220).

BANKER'S DELIGHT - Back to the days when banks were as much fun as dolls goes Frances Lafty, 2, of 105 Union Park street. She is viewing the Mark Haber collection of old-fashioned banks, open to the public this week, in the Boston Penny Savings Bank at 1375 Washington street.


 

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