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Home Savings Banks of Yesterday

By Philip A. Perkins — The SAVINGS BANKER, June, 1946

1946 Savings Banks of Yesteryear photo

For a period of about thirty years, beginning in 1869, the cause of savings was vigorously expounded and furthered by the manufacturers of mechanical banks. Designed particularly to appeal to children and to inculcate and encourage habits of thrift, more than 200 different varieties and styles were offered for sale. Stores had them on their shelves and in country areas the old time peddler always had several varieties to offer when making his rounds. Retail prices were from fifty cents to two dollars each, with many selling for one dollar.

The ingeniousness and workmanship evidenced in these banks is a tribute to Yankee mechanical aptitude and craftsmanship. A wide range of subjects were depicted, such as bank buildings, houses, animals, political figures and caricatures, with many combinations of two or more. The circus was represented by clowns and trick animals; the theatre by puppet shows and magicians; sports by baseball and football players in action; banking by tellers who deposited your money for you in miniature bank buildings, and many other different and unrelated subjects. They were mostly made of cast iron and even though comprised of many working parts, springs, levers and wheels, were so substantially constructed that they still function as well today as when they first delighted some small boy or girl. They were usually finished in bright colors with a preference towards reds, yellows and blues.

The hobby of collecting mechanical banks has many devotees both men and women. Prominent business executives and bank officers have collections as well as banks themselves. The latter often have them on permanent display in their windows or lobbies, or bring them out once or twice a year for exhibition. They are an unfailing medium for attracting attention from eight to eighty.

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