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Animated Bell Ringer Toys
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1957

57-02.JPG (19144 bytes)

There is no doubt that mechanical banks are the leading collector’s item in the field of old children’s toys. This is no reflection on doll collecting as this is a separate specialized field of its own. The old cast iron toys such as the various horse drawn type, including fire engines, circus wagons, carriages of all types, streetcars, then trains and old toy automobiles are all very desirable collector’s items. However, another specialized group of cast iron toys has become especially desirable and in a number of cases are being sought after by the collectors of mechanical banks. These are the animated bell ringing pull toys which enjoyed a popularity during the same period as the mechanical banks.

Two companies were very active in this particular field of manufacturing bell ringing pull toys. These companies, the Gong Bell Manufacturing Company and the N.N. Hill Brass Company, made a wide variety of the toys with many different subjects and actions involved. In this respect they are very similar to mechanical banks. The various mechanical actions of the animated bell ringing toys are along simpler lines, however, than those of the mechanical banks. Other companies made some bell ringers and of particular interest is the J. & E. Stevens Company, the top manufacturer of mechanical banks, Watrous Manufacturing Company, and Ives-Blakeslee & Company. Hubley entered into the picture, and no doubt Wilkins and a number of others made some of these interesting toys.

As with the mechanical banks, many intriguing and interesting names were given to the bell toys. Among these are Ding Dong Bell (a rare mechanical bank has the same name), Whoa Der Ceaser, Evening News Baby Quieter, Wild Mule Jack, The Columbus Egg, Mary And Her Little Lamb, The Cossack And The Jap, Are You A Buffalo, Uncle Sam And The Don, Trick Elephant Bell Ringer, Kicking Mule Bell Ringer, Cinderella’s Chariot, The Tramp, The Surf Boat, The Clown Bell Ringers, Jonah And The Whale, John Bull And Uncle Sam, and many others.

To properly classify as an animated bell ringer the toy must have some movement of a figure involved with the ringing of the bell. There are several in the group, however, that are not strictly speaking, animated. Examples would be Daisy, Landing Of Columbus, and Cinderella’s Chariot. In these the bell rings, however, no other movement takes place. These are, nevertheless, very interesting well made cast iron bell ringers and could be compared to the semi-mechanical group of banks as compared to the mechanicals.

There are, of course, other types of bell ringers such as those of strap iron and tin, also bells between two wheels, or a horse pulling a bell. These are not in the same class nor should they be confused with the fine type of bell ringers under discussion. They are not nearly as desirable, nor do they have the appeal of the cast iron type. There are several exceptions in the tin type, and two of these are the large size Camel and Horse bell ringers made by the Gong Bell Manufacturing Company. These are both well made and when found in good condition are desirable. In several exceptional cases there are cast iron bell ringers in combination with moving tin figures and these are at the top in desirability. Examples of these are the Monkey And Pony, The Bell Ringers, and The Girl In Cart.

Several bell ringers from the writer’s collection are shown. The Drummer Boy is a fine example and was designed by Charles Bailey, the foremost designer of mechanical banks. The Happy Hooligan Automobile and the Double Ripper Sled were made by the N.N. Hill Brass Company. The Monkey On Tricycle was made by the J. & E. Stevens Company, and the Poodle Dog, Ding Dong Bell, and Eagle were manufactured by Gong Bell Manufacturing Company. Buster Brown And Tige was made by Watrous Manufacturing Company. The Telephone Chimes Hello Hello is an item of the mid 1880’s and is pictured for sale in the 1885-86 Catalog of Selchow & Righter. They are brightly painted in appropriate colors and are well made toys comparable to the procedure used in making mechanical banks.

These animated pull toys being subject to both indoor and outdoor play of a rather rough nature are quite hard to find, particularly so in good original condition.


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