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Cupola Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - June, 1957

57-06.JPG (14853 bytes)A mechanical bank bearing an early patent date is our choice as No. 55 in our numerical classification of the mechanical banks. This bank, the Cupola Bank, is, as a matter of fact, the thirteenth mechanical bank covered by a patent. In this case the number thirteen is lucky considering the bank as being a rare good item, however, it is unlucky for some collectors who do not have one since it is a rather scarce item to find.

The bank was patented January 27, 1874 by inventor Diedrich Dieckmann of New York City. It was manufactured by the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Conn. In patenting the bank Dieckmann was careful to cover all details so that no coin slot would be exposed until the operation of the mechanism. Also carefully covered were the operation of the cupola and the vibration of the figure. Apparently this bank was not manufactured over a long period of years as evidenced by its rarity today. Several of the earlier dated banks such as Halls Excelsior, Dec. 21, 1869, and Tammany, Dec. 23, 1873, are quite common even though they have these very early dates. This is due to the fact that they were both made in large quantities over a long span of time.

The specimen shown was obtained by the writer some years ago in a Boston, Mass., antique shop. An unusual circumstance was that the writer knew of this particular bank being in the possession of the original owner. She was an elderly lady living in East Boston and for several years the writer tried to buy the bank with no success. Sentimental connections were a factor and respecting this, the writer more or less, gave up hopes of owning this particular bank. A surprise was in store, however, when at a later date the same bank showed up in the above mentioned Boston antique shop. Further surprise was the fact that the bank was purchased at a lower price than the writer offered the original owner. This is, of course, an example of the unusual circumstances that every collector sooner or later encounters in adding items to his collection.

The bank shown is in fine original condition with no repairs. The paint is very good and the colors are as follows. The building itself is green with gold striping. The roof is red and the cupola blue. The coin slot section in front of the figure has a green top and the rest of this section is painted brown. The figure has a blue coat, white collar, black top hat, and natural features with a black mustache. The lettering ‘Pat January 27, 1874’ appears in raised letters on the front curved section of the roof. The word ‘Bank’ appears over the door. Just over this lettering is a raised section in the casting resembling a beehive.

The bank is shown after the completion of the operation. To operate the bank the cupola is first depressed and it clicks into position. The lever protruding from the front door is then pressed and the cupola flies up into the position shown in the picture. The small man vibrates back and forth and the slot is exposed for the deposit of coins.

The Cupola Bank is another representative of the building group of mechanical banks. Since the action of the bank is not self evident this creates the element of surprise which is a desirable feature. As previously mentioned it’s a hard bank to find, and this coupled with its other interesting features make it a desirable addition to any mechanical bank collection.


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