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Organ Grinder and Performing Bear Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - February, 1958

58-02.JPG (36022 bytes)

One of a very limited number of mechanical banks having spring wound motors is our choice as No. 61 in the numerical classification of the mechanical banks. Another unusual feature about this bank, The Organ Grinder And Performing Bear, is that the patent papers covering the bank apply to another mechanical bank totally different in appearance.

The Organ Grinder And Performing Bear was patented June 13, 1882 by L. Kyser and A.C. Rex, and of course, Kyser & Rex Company of Philadelphia, Pa., made the bank. This patent as issued actually applies to the Organ Bank With Cat And Dog or Boy And Girl. However, the same principle of operation in turning the figures is employed in the Organ Bank and the bank under discussion and this is the feature protected by the patent. In the case of the Organ Bank the operation is accomplished by turning a crank by hand, while a spring motor provides the power to operate the Organ Grinder And Performing Bear. While on the subject it might be well to mention that there is a third type of Organ Bank operating on the same principle. This is the miniature Organ Bank with a revolving monkey. A fourth type has a monkey that tips his hat, but no turning figures are present. These four types of Organ Banks were all manufactured by Kyser & Rex.

The bank pictured was obtained by the writer some years ago from an antique dealer in Bath, Me. It is an unusually fine specimen and completely original. The bank is painted in bright colors and these are in excellent condition. The base is entirely green with highlightings of red and yellow around the sides, the building is tan with a red roof and door, and the windows are outlined in gold. The back fence is white and one boy has a blue jacket and the other a yellow shirt. The figure playing the organ has a red jacket, gray trousers, yellow hat, and he has natural features with a black beard. The organ is brown and gold, and the figure of the bear is also brown with bronze highlighting. The stick over the bear’s shoulders is gold, as is the winding key.

A feature that makes the Organ Grinder And Performing Bear unusually desirable is the sustained action of the bank. A permanent key located on the side of the building is first wound to prepare the bank for operation. A coin is then placed as shown in the provided slot on top of the organ. A small lever on the base is then moved and all the action starts. The coin drops through the organ into the base of the bank, the man cranks the organ with his right arm, and a bell sounds inside the bank. Meantime the bear turns in a more or less hesitant fashion as though performing or dancing. The action can be stopped at any time by moving the lever or, if preferred, the mechanism can run down until it stops of its own accord. It is of interest to note that the windup mechanism is entirely of cast iron with the exception of the flat coil spring.

The Organ Grinder And Performing Bear Bank is a great favorite among mechanical bank collectors. It is not one of the more difficult banks to find, however, it is one of the more desirable. The sustained action, sound effects, and the theme of the bank have an irresistible charm to the collector of mechanical banks, and for that matter to most anyone who would see the bank in operation.


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