FRIGIDAIRE BULLETIN - April 1946
Yesterday's Thrifty Toy — Is Collector's Item
Many years ago when grandpa was a boy a bright copper penny was a gift to be
prized for then, so we are told, most little boys and girls were paragons of
thrift. Be that as it may, the youngsters of that day had extravagantly painted
and ingeniously contrived banks to encourage the habit of saving. Foundries vied
with each other to produce cast iron mechanical banks that would offer the child
a clever or amusing stunt in compensation for the disappearance of the coveted
penny into the bank's iron depths. It became a worn but productive ruse in those
days for the canny youngster to ask a guest if he would like to see the bank
perform. The guest, of course, furnished the coin.
It is generally conceded
that the first of these mechanical banks was invented in the year 1869 by John
Hall, a New England Yankee. He designed the Hall Excelsior Bank (see photo)
which was a miniature house, the chimney of which lifted up, revealing a little
man seated at his desk. A penny placed on the desk provided just enough weight
to counterbalance the chimney,, and the little man disappeared with the coin,
bowing his thanks as he descended into the bowels of the bank. Meeting with
almost instant success, this first bank was followed by scores of others and for
the next twenty-five or thirty years mechanical toy banks were all the rage.
Today these banks are collectors' items, either as works of art or as samples of
For the past ten years,
John R. Martin, General Foreman of Service Stock, Plant Two, and his son Jack,
Dept. 250, Plant Two, have been collecting both mechanical and "still" banks and
have found it a fascinating and rewarding hobby. Their collection includes some
200 "still," or "character," banks and 65 of the mechanical models. "Stills" are
remarkably realistic iron miniatures of animals, houses, churches, safes, comic
strip characters, soldiers, sailors, sailors, and the like. Among their
mechanical banks some of the most interesting are the "William Tell," "The
Hunter and the Bear," "The Eagle Feeding Her Young," "The Football, or Calamity,
Bank" and "Always Did 'Spise a Mule," to mention just a few.
In the William Tell bank,
for instance, a penny place on Tell's crossbow shoots an apple from his son's
head; apple and penny disappear into a slot in the castle. In the Hunter model,
the fearless man with the gun fires at a target on a tree and, as the coin
shoots home, a bear pops out of the tree stump. These banks and almost a hundred
others from the Martin collection were on display in the window of a local men's
clothing store during the Sixth War Loan Drive.
Many of the Martin family
vacation trips have developed into veritable treasure hunts, for while the men
track down banks to add to their collection, Mrs. Martin — who is also an
enthusiastic collector — is on the lookout for her specialty, individual salt,
and individual butter, dishes of old glass or china.
Bank collecting has led
to varied and pleasant contacts with other enthusiasts.
Out pheasant hunting one
fall in the neighborhood of Fostoria, Ohio, Martin and his son dropped into the
First National Bank to examine the famous Emerine collection and stayed to chat,
and exchange many a valuable hint about mechanical banks, with Andrew Emerine,
the institution's president. Mr. Emerine, who is a pioneer in the field and an
expert's expert, estimates that the total number of different American-made
banks possible to assemble in the neighborhood of 270. So the Martins, with 65
fine examples, are well on the way toward owning a most complete collection.
With the war over, bank
hunters will take to the road again and it is fairly safe to assume that the
Martin family will be Among the hunters. In fact, with a bank or two to trade
(the Martins own several duplicate models) this summer's trek should yield a
prize and the Martins then will have a new act to add to their miniature