St. Louis Globe Democrat, November 26, 1944
Collection of Old, Mechanical Banks
to be Displayed During 6th War Loan Drive
By REULAH SCHACT
HERE ARE SOME OF THE 94 BANKS
I. A. Long 5155 Westminster pl. vice president of
Mercantile - Commerce Bank and Trust Company.
What our forefathers didn't go through to make their offspring save a penny!
Way back when the toga was the thing, the little Greeks didn't balk because
they had to drop their drachmas into pottery vases; in 1664 young English
hoarders used pottery and porcelain containers, and in 1793 when the first
United States large penny pieces were used, youthful America was satisfied
with homemade banks fashioned from gourds, shells, or whittled from clay or
In 1869, however, cast
iron became popular in the manufacture of toy banks and from that time on,
no child "in the know" would settle for a container that didn't possess the
ingenuity and complications of a Rube Goldberg invention.
It's probably just as
well, because if they had settled for less, I. A. Long, 5155 Westminster
pl., wouldn't have the interesting hobby that he has. He collects old toy
"It just happened that we
had a couple in my family when I was a kid," he explained. "I was interested
in them and about three years ago my father sent me a newspaper article on
the subject of toy bank collectors and I started a collection myself.
94 OF 'EM NOW
"Now I have 94.
Their prices range from class 'A' banks at $3 to class 'F' banks at
Long keeps the most
interesting of his banks on shelves on either side of the fireplace in his
home, and at first glance they look more like knickknack statuettes than
banks. He demonstrates them apologetically because, he explained his friends
have frightened him. It seems that when two are gathered together in his
living room he immediately begins on the subject of banks. And before long
the listeners try to impart the idea they have heard enough by noticeably
yawning and making often futile, attempts at changing the conversation.
With a little persuasion
he knelt on the floor beside one that he particularly likes, called "The
Battery." It's 10 inches long and 7¼ inches high. On the base stand three
ballplayers — a pitcher, a batter and a catcher. You place a penny in the
hand of the pitcher, press a concealed lever, and, faster than your eye can
follow, the penny leaves the pitcher's hand, sails, with never-failing
accuracy, past the swinging batter and into the waiting hands of the
catcher, who deposits it in his open abdomen from where it falls into the
base of the contraption.
Then there's the
"Milk Cow." which consists of a cow and a boy busy at the task of
milking her. Press a penny into the slot on top of the cow's back and —
zingo — Bossie raises her right hind leg with a vengeance, kicks the
startled boy backwards and leaves him there with the milk pail over his
The "Bad Accident Bank"
is the likeness of a lad riding in a two-wheeled cart pulled by a
lazy-looking donkey. Hiding behind a bush on the donkey's left is a small
colored boy. Place a coin under the feet of the driver, press a lever and
the boy jumps into the road, frightening the donkey. As the donkey rears,
the cart and driver are thrown backward and the coin disappears into the
body of the cart.
"Jonah and the Whale" is
a puzzling gadget in that Jonah and the whale are not the only persons
involved — no, there's a women mixed up in it. The whale is lying on a
cast-iron wave. Jonah and his lady friend are sitting in a small boat. As
you place a coin on Jonah's shoulders and press a lever, the boat glides
forward and the woman thrusts Jonah toward the yawning, tooth-lined mouth of
the whale. Does the whale get Jonah? Not in this story. All the whale gets
is the coin.
Although most of the
banks are built around subjects which would motivate children into
depositing coins and entertain them at the same time, a few of them are
caricatures on politicians and events.
'PADDY AND HIS PIG'
immigration of the Irish to America, about 1880, the 'Paddy and his Pig'
bank came into existence. Paddy sits with a pig upheld between his knees. A
lever is pulled, Paddy's eyes roll back, his lower jaw moves and his tongue
comes out to lick the penny from the pig's snout.
The 'Tammany' or 'Little
Fat Man' bank depicts Boss Tweed in the '70's. Boss Tweed, looking like a
smoothly dressed politician, sits in an armchair, his hand extended. Put a
penny in his hand and he pockets it, politely bowing his thanks.
'Teddy Roosevelt' also
comes in for his share of the fun. There he stands, spectacles and all, gun
in hand, in front of a tree. The gun is loaded with a coin. Teddy takes aim
and shoots the penny into the tree. At the same time, a fierce-looking bear
pops his head out of the top of the tree. That's all. The bear just sits
there looking at Teddy's unchanging expression and waits to be pushed back
into the trunk.
The most gruesome
caricature is that of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler in the guise of a bullfrog. In
1884 he ran for the presidency on the 'Greenback' ticket (paper currency)
and was dismally defeated. The bank has the body of a bloated bullfrog with
the bald and mustached head of the General carrying a huge wallet of paper
money. It has no mechanical action. The coin is slipped between Butler's
parted lips and falls into his bulging stomach.
"It seems that
most of the people who collect these banks are bankers themselves" explained
Long who is vice president of Mercantile - Commerce Bank and Trust Company.
"We carry on correspondence with each other, trying to fill out our
collections. For instance, if I have two of one bank, I look for someone who
will trade me the extra for one that I don't have.
"The greatest part of
them were made in New England and that's the best place to look for them
now, although a number of people throughout the country probably have such
banks hidden in attics and barns. Sometimes you run across them in antiques
Just as in any other form
of collecting, one must be careful of counterfeits. Not so long ago a
duplication of an old and valuable bank appeared for sale in one of the St.
Louis department stores. Some of the recently made mechanical banks are
painted then chipped or burned to make them appear old.
Probably those who
appreciate Long's collection most are his two small children. "I had a
little trouble with them for a while," he remembered, "but now we play with
the bank only in the evening after dinner."
He's waiting to see what
they'll do during the Sixth War Loan Drive, opening today, because he's
lending the major portion of the banks to the Mercantile - Commerce Bank and
Trust Company for display purposes.