A unique discovery in a mechanical bank has recently taken place in the finding of a Bamboula Bank. This bank is unique in that it is the only authentic French made cast iron mechanical bank so far discovered.
The circumstances of the writer obtaining the bank are more or less unusual as is so often the case when a collector is fortunate enough to add a good bank to his collection. To begin with, E.L. Ramsay of York, Pa., obtained the bank some time ago with a large shipment of various antiques imported from France. The bank was then sold (apparently as a Jolly Nigger) at one of Mr. Ramsays auctions to a Mr. Fulton, also of York. The writer, while attending a recent Eastern auction including some mechanical banks, was having an interesting time of it in conversation with other bank collectors and various dealers, including Frank Whitson of Baltimore, Md. At one point Mr. Whitson asked the writer if he had ever heard of the English-made Bamboozle Bank. That was a new one on the writer and immediate interest was expressed. To make a longer story short, Mr. Whitson obtained the bank for the writer and it turned out to be Bamboula, not Bamboozle, and French, not English.
As can be seen in the picture the bank resembles and is quite similar to the American-made and English-made Jolly Niggers. There are a number of differences in the casting, however, and the base plate is very unusual with a unique type coin trap. The trap can be operated with a coin or screw driver. It consists of a semi-circular opening in the base with a semi-circular closing plate on the inside. This plate is held in place by a strong spring, also inside the bank. The plate is affixed to a large round slotted knob that is operated from the underside of the base. The knob when turned left or right moves the plate exposing the opening.
The name Bamboula appears in raised letters on the back of the bank as can be seen in the picture. Under the name, depressed in the casting, appears the word Depose. This is the French indication of Marque Depose, or a registered trade mark in France. Depose literally means deposited, and this indicates that the mark has been deposited or registered.
The name of the bank has quite an interesting background and is completely of French origin. Bamboula liberally translated means a large crowd and lots of noise. It is a French slang word and originated in North Africa with the Colonial troops of General Bugeaud who conquered Algeria in 1840. It is actually the French spelling of an Arabic word and was brought back to France by the returning troops from Algeria.
The bank shows an interesting amount of usage and age, and while as yet the exact date of manufacture is unknown to the writer, it was, in his opinion, made in the 1895 to 1910 period.
The operation of the bank is the same as the Jolly Nigger. A coin is placed in the extended right hand, press the lever and the coin is deposited in the mouth as the tongue recedes and the eyes roll upward. The face is painted black with red lips and white teeth, the eyes are white background with black pupils and red iris. The shirt is red and the tie is black.
To sum up, it is, of course, always of great interest when a heretofore unknown mechanical bank turns up. Beyond this, the greatest attraction of the Bamboula centers around the fact that it is the first French cast iron mechanical bank found to date.