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Text from newsletters mailed by William F. Ferguson
in the 1940s to collectors of Mechanical Banks
Scroll down for note from John & Bettie Feather

W. F. Ferguson

     Here’s good news, I’ve just heard from Mrs. Jones that our good friend, James C. Jones, of Cleveland, is improving and is able to be out on the porch in a wheel chair an hour each day. Poor Jim had a stroke on July 11th, still very ill, but he’s not giving up. Let’s help him pull through. A little newsy letter from each of us will cheer him immensely. Address – 10902 Edgewater Drive, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.


     FERGUSON PICKS UP SOME RARE BANKS, Yessir, right out in John D. Meyer’s territory. But, unfortunately, that is as far as I got. After looking them over I had to put them back on Mr. Meyer’s well arranged shelves, Mrs. Ferguson and I enjoyed a grand visit with John D. recently, saw his fine collection of Ruby glass, largest in the country, his bank collection, of course, and a wonderful lot of early clocks – all running, and all striking - - bang, bang, bang – Ding, Bing, Bing, - BONG, BONG, Bong - - - Cuckoo! I didn’t mind it except when they struck twelve. So many were striking at once I got all mixed up in the count, and had to stay awake until 1 A.M. to check again and be sure every one struck. They all turned out to be Union clocks.


     Then I went to sleep.


     Oh, yes, another big treat - - John D. showed us colored movies of all his banks and boy, that’s a great idea – all in colors. And he had a lot of banks. Good banks, too. Mr. Meyer has promised to show these movies at our next Bank Collectors Convention. Let’s make it next Fall.


     Pickings were poor on the trip. What’s happened to all the banks anyway? Can’t even find a Tammany. Which reminds me that poor Sherwood used to say the time would come when all banks would be very scarce.


     Recently received a clipping from Providence Journal of May 31. On the Hobby page was an article featuring six year old Roger H. Russell, 71 Catlin Ave. Rumford, R.I. as a collector of banks. It stated he has 15 old mechanical banks, and with his picture, I noted Jolly Nigger, Teddy and Bear, etc. etc. Starting at that age, he ought to have a big collection when he grows up. What if we had started at six? Would have had the market cornered by now. Anyway, this is another, member to go on John Meyer’s list of collectors.


     CATALOGUE DEPARTMENT – Going through some old catalogs I bought recently I made some notes that may interest you. Not a well connected story, but here goes:




     In 1893 Selchow and Righter illustrates the “Tyrolese Bank”. Ever have that one? It’s a mechanical all right. See answer on page 32. Or perhaps you already know that this is our “Wm. Tell, shooting into tree”.

     In 1894 they illustrated the Zoo bank. First I’d seen an illustration. Listed as “a new one” they claim it the cheapest iron bank on market. $2. per doz.


     1894 catalog lists O I C safe bank. “When safe door is opened a pane of glass allows you to see the money.” Back of safe has to be removed to get coins.


     TINY ORGAN is mentioned in 1895 as “a new size to retail at 25 cents – best quarter  bank made” (What an investment! – selling it new at $25, would bring close to 10,000% profit, or about 200% a year) Not bad – for a banker. If we only knew what to buy, there may be just such investment to be had today. Although at the rate we are traveling, fifty years from now, no one will stop to look at antiques.

     At any rate the catalogue lists the organ banks, per doz: $8.50; medium size $4. and small (tiny at $2. – the values being reversed now. And in another catalogue of 1894, L. H. Mace & Co., N. Y. – the tiny organ was offered at $1.85 per doz. And they offered about ten other banks (not illustrated) at $8. per doz. Bad Accident, Baseball, Bicycle?, cat & Mouse, Dancing Bear, Mule, Sportsmen (?) etc. I suppose the bicycle was Pugfrog Bank. What could the “Sportsmen” bank be? At $8. a doz. It must have been a mechanical. It has me guessing.


     Have you this one which was offered in 1895? A Dime registering PURSE. Looked just like the old fashioned purse. First dime locks it and won’t open until a dollar has been deposited.


     Only illustration of Uncle Remus bank appears in 1895 catalog – a half tone cut, which is unusual. It’s noted as a new one, offered at $6. a dozen.


     In 1891 catalog discovered our glass Savings Bank, slot in ridge of roof of fancy building. You’ve seen the one I have. This has always been claimed a Sandwich glass bank. (Was Sandwich factory running as late as 1891?). It was illustrated and advertised as “a 10 cent glass bank – something new and very catchy – price 79 cents a dozen.


     In an 1892 catalogue was illustrated an interesting wooden barrel bank (to sell for 5 cents) Knob at top pulls out, revealing a cylinder with a slot for coin, etc. I never saw anything like that.


     FORTUNE TELLER SAV. BANK.  Dial on safe, but truly a mechanical – coin slides down a long slot and engages the cog wheel, allowing you to spin the fortune wheel. In the illustration, which I note in 1902 catalogue (the earliest) the fortune appears through a window on top. This is like friend Emerine’s. One I have, window is in front door.


     DOLLIE’S Bank.  A scarce pretty little still bank is the China doll head, blonde or brunette. Slot in parting of hair, and “Dollie’s Bank” is in gold letters on bust. I find it advertised in 1903 catalogue at 79 cents a dozen, as a “delightful dime novelty bank – something new”. Friend Wieder has the blonde, and I the brunette, while Dr. Corby has both. He would. “If it is a bank – Doc. Has it”.


     An oddity I found in 1903 catalogue is the “Portrait Bank” – Who ever heard of that one? Not just what you are expecting, I guess. It is a 2-1/2 x 4 black enamel safe with a bronze bust on top – offered in catalogue “With McKinley, Washington, Lincoln, Grant and others”. The illustration shows McKinley bust on top of bank. “Complete height, with statue, 6 in. – at $2.25 a dozen. I’d give that much for one.


     The last three banks were offered in Butler Brothers catalogue, claiming “two mammoth houses, New York and Chicago. Some night I am going to dream I am walking through one of these old places, picking up nice fresh mechanical banks that will make dandy Christmas presents for my bank collector friends. Yes, and hunting up some that I need too. And, at Such Bargains!


     And here’s some from a couple of catalogues friend Meyer loaned me. An 1880 catalogue of Erich Brothers, New York, shows illustration of the Peg Leg Beggar.  Called “The Beggar Bank” – it sold for 50 cents. The Gem Bank is also illustrated, called “The Watch Dog of the Treasury” (for lack of a better name at 35 cents. Maybe they did have a watch dog in the Treasury then.


     Conway Brothers of Philadelphia, in 1891 showed a lot of bank pictures: Organ banks, three sizes, Dentist, Boy on Trapeze (called Automatic Bank) “Penny in head makes him revolve once, for 5 cent piece, twice: a quarter, three times, etc.” They also show “Jonah Bank” the rare one on legs. Each one in a box at $8. per dozen. Their place was 229-231 Church St. – if you should ever like to show your children what you missed - - And most of us did miss that one.


     The Motor Bank is nicely illustrated. “Wind it up and the insertion of a coin in slot will cause it to move rapidly a few yards and ring a gong. Mechanism can be disconnected and car drawn like an ordinary wagon toy. Gosh, if we had it to do over again.


     Well, well, Old Bank News is progressing. A two-page sheet now, and subscription list has jumped from a dozen to fifty – more or less. How about some “copy” for the next issue? Try a hand at it and send me something. Doesn’t have to be good. Look at what I’ve been putting over.    



     About the finest article on banks, considering its well written interesting story and fine colored pictures, appeared in the May 3rd SATURDAY EVENING POST. And it contained a dandy picture of Andy Emerine in his workshop with his grandchildren. The fact that some mechanical toys are included in the article adds to the interest. It’s the best article ever clipped for my scrap book.


     Brother Andy has already received over two hundred letters in response to the Post article, one offering the Eagle bank for $125. He has just acquired a nice Giant bank – a real rarity – but didn’t say whether it was due to Post article.


     Mr. Leon Cameto of Oakland, Calif. Is a fairly new collector but 100% enthusiastic. He and Mrs. Cameto came way to New York to look (and marvel) at some of the rarities housed in New York vaults. Nice folks.


     Henry Miller, Dick Lederer and Mark Haber have just returned from a trip to Ashville, N. C. where they testified in U. S. Dist. Court against Albert Earl Parmer of Lincolnton, N. C.  Parmer answered their advs and trimmed them on bank deals. He never answered my adv. Apparently my Scotch name protected me. Pendergast sent him a check, but later got suspicious and stopped payment in time. I understand this will be his fifth trip UP.


     Good news – Ferd Wieder of California recently found a rare Jonah and Whale bank – Jonah coming out of the whale’s mouth. The only other collector owning one of these rarities is friend Emerine. Wieder is now in Australia and New Zealand, supposedly on a business trip – but something tells me he’s heard of a rare bank there.


     Another find. In 1877 Ives and Williams, makers of the famous “Ives Toys” closed shop – 682 Broadway, New York. From the receivers a man bought about thirty catalog cuts of toy cap pistols, many of them old wood cuts. Last month this gentleman sold them to me. Rare and interesting items to add to my pistol collection.


     Crockery Bazaars.  (They used to be called Antique Shows) Nowadays you can hitch up and drive around the country, taking in a show each day. Sometimes two a day. But Dealers are beginning to look haggard – and they are beginning to sense this wild scramble for anything and everything, whether it’s old or not, is going too far. They see the barometer falling, along with the stock market. I saw an article priced at $40. at a show in April, and bought it this month (the same one) for $18. When those four new dealers (maybe eight) for every old one, who sprung up and stocked up in the boom years, discover there’s a buyers’ strike – what’s going to happen?


     I nearly got kicked out of  a Ritzy Antique Shop recently. I walked in and asked “Anything new?”


     I musn’t close without expressing favorable comment on Louis Hertz’s new book, which gives such an interesting and complete story about Mechanical banks. I’ve indexed my copy and the book will prove a handy reference many many times.



November 25, 1942


     This issue brings sad news. Within a few days of each other two of our most valued friends passed away, after long illness. Both of the same affliction – heart trouble.


     Both were gentlemen of the finest character and friendliest fellows I ever met. Considerate and always willing to help us collectors with banks and information about the banks.


     JAMES C. JONES died October 31, 1942 at his home in Cleveland, Ohio. This date was Mr. and Mrs. Jones’ forty-second wedding anniversary, also Jim’s birthday. While on a vacation trip early in 1941 at New Orleans with Mrs. Jones and her sister, Mrs. Molloy, poor Jim was taken ill. Later, after returning home, he became seriously ill but after a long fight improved and was able to come to New York that summer, calling on his friends and getting back to “antiquing” which he loved.


     Early this summer he suffered a serious setback from which, although he made a gallant fight and at times showed wonderful improvement, he could not recover. Through all this Mrs. Jones was constantly at his side, striving to help him back to health; showing the same great devotion as he had shown through the long illness Mrs. Jones had suffered a few years before.


     I wish I could tell you more of Jim for I know you all are interested, but I do know that Jim achieved success as a business man after beginning at the very bottom rung of the ladder. He was connected with Rockefeller interests in Cleveland.


     H. BLAIR HULL died October 28, 1942 at Dayton, Ohio, age 51, after an illness lasting ten months. Blair had about had about the fourth largest collection of mechanical banks in the country.


     Frigidaire research engineer and an inventor holding a hundred patents, he received the Modern Pioneer award in 1939 for distinguished achievement in the field of science. He perfected the air cooling system for fever cabinets and also did extensive research work for the iron lung, blood bank and Pavox Machine.


     Bank Collectors are indebted to him for bringing to our attention the large number of illustrated papers on banks, obtainable at the Washington Patent office, supplying many of us with these interesting items.


     To Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Hull is extended the heartfelt sympathy of the bank collecting fraternity, all of whom knew and thought so much of our two dear friends – Jim and Blair.


     Have recently been advised of the death, last summer, of Mr. Orndorf, bank collector and dealer, of Providence. I was not well acquainted with Mr. Orndorf, but all of us have had correspondence with him, more or less.


December 01, 1945


     There’s a new mechanical bank to add to the list, just recently dug out, down in Baltimore, by our friend, Frank Ball. It’s tin, nevertheless mechanical, and nice looking. This “Home Bank” is a printed tin building about 6 inches high with the front set back of columns – showing the teller as usual behind the barred window in door, above which is “Receiving Teller”. Below are the words “Get your receipt here” and “pat. Applied for”. Just under the window the edge of a shelf so you can draw it out, and on the shelf will be a “deposit ticket” or card, on which to note your deposit. Inside there is a bin which will hold twenty or so cards, one coming out each time you deposit – then pull out shelf.


     Congratulations to Frank Ball for discovering this new item. He gives me the history of the bank as follows: “Patent applied for about 1899. Understand from 500 to 700 were made by a man in Baltimore who went broke trying to improve it. Creditor took banks and sold same through Baltimore stores. Were sold out quickly. Only six of these have shown up.”


     Wonder when the next new discovery will come along and what will it be.


     I don’t think all of you have seen the “Bid and Ask” lists Henry W. Miller, 18 Elliet St., Mt. Vernon, N.Y. is getting out. If you haven’t you should write him. From his list I note he has bids of $275. for Girl Skipping Rope - $150. for Hold the Fort. Mr. Miller tells me he recently sold Dentist $175.; Lion Hunter $160. and Pug Frog and Snapping Bull Dog at $150. each. His commission is 10% on either purchase or sale, and you name your price, either way. Right now seems a good time to cash in on duplicates.


     Mark Haber is advertising in “Relics” Magazine – “I will pay $250. for a Freedman’s Bank in good condition. Other banks proportionally” and in another adv. He offers $300. for a Bowling Alley Bank.


     Gone are the days when dealers figured banks at $5. to $50. – buying and selling accordingly. Since then toy banks have gone up and real banks have gone down.


     So many dealers now write you and ask for a bid on their bank, usually saying they have written other collectors. Then, if you want it, what a spot you are in.


     My new illustrated list, by the way, went over big. I received many favorable comments, and shortly after the first few were mailed I got a response and might soon have a new addition to my collection. (P.S. – I didn’t get it). Perhaps there lists will help to bring some banks to you, as well. The more, the merrier.


     F. W. Wieder of San Francisco has been in New York since the day the Armory show opened. He hasn’t found a bank this time but is staying for the White Plains show in hopes of not going back empty handed.


     The White Plains show opened up fine, much larger, big crowd and full of nice items, but no banks, except Leap Frog at $40.


     So many have asked me, who is the New York corporation advertising for Banks – Reredel Corporation, 285 Madison Ave. Just found out myself – spell the name backwards and you have “Lederer”. The idea, Dick, putting it over on us like that!




Web Note: The following note was attached to a scrapbook
gifted to Bill Jones by Bettie and John Feather.


 Dear Bill:
     This loose leaf album was given to us by William F. Ferguson of New Rochelle, N. Y. He was the Treasurer of The N.Y. Bank for Savings, N. Y. City, and was one of the true earliest mechanical bank collectors with Corby, Hull, Meyer, Jones, Emerine, etal. Even prior to Richards R. I. Club they met periodically in the group’s homes and gleaned much of the earliest information and actual acquisition of the banks. He was a wonderful gentleman and had there been an all-star mechanical bank group he would have been at the top of the list. The N. Y. Bank for Savings always had a fine display of banks on its floor.
     #2   Another Westchester County collector we enjoyed visiting was Samuel F. Pryor who lived in Greenwich, Conn. He was C. E. O. of Pan American World Airlines and had been bitten badly by the bank bug. He was highly involved in assisting his friend, Walter P. Chrysler in building his bank collection and was very close to Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Bettie was fascinated with his fine collection of French and German mechanical dolls.
     We realize this is a bad case of name dropping but those were very interesting days.
                                              Bettie and John



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