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Rhode Island’s
Bank Collectors’ Club
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1954

Probably one of the most exclusive collectors’ organizations in the world is the Antique Bank Collectors’ Club of Rhode Island. A feature story in the Providence Sunday Journal of January 3, by Robert L. Wheeler with pictures by John P. Callahan, tells of the club and the activities of its members.
According to author Wheeler the club has nine regular members. In order to obtain a membership one has to own a minimum of five mechanical banks of the vintage when thrift in children was encouraged by gifts of banks which performed tricks by placing pennies in the slots. Or one can have a membership if he owns a minimum of twenty-five "still" banks. The stills have no mechanical action, and were made in great varieties and numbers by yesteryear manufacturers. They are therefore more plentiful than the mechanical action banks.

The club holds four meetings a year. It was at a recent meeting that author Robert L. Wheeler obtained data on the collectors themselves and the objects of their avid hobby pursuit, whom we quote, in part:
"DeForest W. Abel, president of the Automobile Mutual Company of Providence, was host in his home at the recent meeting. Two other company presidents, Edwin M. Caldwell, Jr. (Caldwell Motors Company, West Warwick) and W.W. Yando (Braided Rugs and Specialties Company, Pawtucket); a man in the building materials business, Oliver I. Clark; an attorney, Edward T. Richards (Edwards & Angell), and a stock clerk at Central High School, Rudolph A. Salvatore.

"Also a banker, Frederick L. Macalister, assistant manager of the Slater branch of the Industrial Trust. Another banker, Rupert C. Thompson, president of the Union National Bank of Providence, couldn’t make it. Neither could Donald B. Derby, president of the U.S. Finishing Company, Norwich, Conn., and the collectors’ only out-of-state member. There are two honorary members, F.L. Ball of Cambridge, Mass., dean of dealers in mechanical banks, and Andrew Emerine, Fostoria, an internationally known collector.

"Lawyer Richards is president of the Antique Bank Collectors of Rhode Island and Stock Clerk Salvatore is secretary – treasurer. After talking mechanical banks for about so long the collectors lunched on chicken sandwiches and pumpkin pie and then went back and talked mechanical banks some more.

"This reporter mentioned the lighthouse bank he owned when he was a boy to one of the Collectors and the latter said yes, he had a chance to acquire one once, a lady who was using it for a table decoration offered it to him for free if he would rent her apartment. They couldn’t come to terms.

"The history of mechanical toys goes back a long way. When you come right down to it, what was Friar Roger Bacon’s talking skull but one? And of course there were the cathedral clock jacks of medieval times, the little figures that came out when the hours struck, and jerkily gestured. The Robot was with us long before the play R.U.R. gave him a name. But it remained for the New England Yankee to originate a type of toy that performed for a penny, presumably to inculcate habits of saving and giving you action for your money.

" ‘Still’ penny banks made their appearance fairly early in the history of the Republic. The first large penny pieces were issued by the U.S. Treasury in 1793, and before long there were penny banks of wood and clay for the youngsters to stack the occasional copper. Some of them were made of glass. And sometimes the penny bank was just a gourd with a slit in it.

"In 1869, however, a certain John Hall, a citizen of Watertown, Mass., devised a penny bank that made saving fun. He invented the patented ‘Hall’s Excelsior Bank,’ a rather simple affair, just a little cast-iron house with a bell and cupola. But when you pulled the bell, something interesting happened. Up flipped the roof of the cupola and up popped a monkey who accepted your penny—and down-popped. He would do this as many times as you could wring pennies from papa.

"Mr. Hall’s ingenious incitement to thrift was an instant success and he promptly put it into production. Hundreds were manufactured and a new industry was born."


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