Mamma Katzenjammer Bank
A comic or cartoon representation in a mechanical bank is a very unusual item, so unusual in fact, that so far there is only one known type to represent this category. The bank that has this unique position is Mama Katzenjammer, our choice as No. 70 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. As a matter of interest, it is well to point out, that some collectors feel that the Uncle Sam Bank is in the same category as Mama Katzenjammer. This technically speaking is not true, however, as the Uncle Sam Bank is more of a characterization of a national symbol rather than a comic or cartoon type figure. There is too, of course, the Shoot The Chute Bank with the figures of Buster Brown and Tige riding in the boat. This bank could possibly be classed with Mama Katzenjammer, however, it is not as an overall bank a comic or cartoon representation. Among the still banks there are a number of cartoon or comic strip types including Buster Brown and Tige. In this case, however, the two figures represent the entire bank, and therefore, it would be properly classed in the comic group. Mutt & Jeff would be another still bank example with identical reasons for the same classification.
As a comic strip the Katzenjammer Kids enjoyed wide popularity in the early 1900s and while the kids were the main characters with their various antics and tricks, both Mama Katzenjammer and the Captain were always prominently featured and involved in the proceedings. The Inspector was another character involved with the Kids, and he too, was a target for many of their pranks. The Katzenjammer Kids was originated by Rudolph Dirks in 1897, however, some years later in a change from one newspaper to another he legally lost the right to use the name Katzenjammer Kids for his strip. He then used the name Hans & Fritz, but during World War I, he changed the name to the Captain and The Kids in 1917, and continued with this name for his comic strip. Meantime, for a period of 25 years, Harold Knerr drew the Katzenjammer Kids under the original name. This created an unusual situation whereby there were two comic strips running at the same time, featuring the same characters. In either case, the Mama Katzenjammer Bank was made to be a definite representation of the comic strip itself. As can be seen in the picture, Mama Katzenjammer is characteristically holding each of the Kids apart, and all three figures are exactly reproduced from the strip.
The Mama Katzenjammer Bank shown is in unusually good condition and the writer has always felt fortunate in having a specimen with the original paint in such excellent condition. It was made by the Kenton Hardware Company of Kenton, Ohio, during the period of the early 1900s. It is the only mechanical bank known to have been made by Kenton. They manufactured many still banks in various figure and animal form and also combination safes. They also made top cap pistols, but Kenton is best known for their general line of horse drawn cast iron toys such as fire engines, carriages, and commercial wagons. In this group were some comic toys including Mama Katzenjammer riding in a wagon spanking one of the kids, the Happy Hooligan patrol wagon with the cop hitting Hooligan on the head, and Alphonse & Gaston riding in a wagon.
The operation of the Mama Katzenjammer is simplicity in itself, although it is realistically appropriate. A horizontal coin slot is located in Mama Katzenjammers back, and when a coin is inserted, she rolls her eyes upward typifying a gesture of discouragement with Hans & Fritz. Her eyes return to the position shown when the coin drops into the bank.
The bank is painted as follows: The faces and hands of all figures are a natural skin color and their mouths are pink and they have blue eyes. Mama Katzenjammers dress is blue and she has black shoes. One boy has a yellow shirt with white collar, red trousers, white socks, and black shoes. The other boy has a red shirt with a white collar and large black tie. His trousers are yellow, and he also has white socks and black shoes. It is a very colorful bank and this lends to an attractive appearance.
The unique comic subject angle plus the fact it is rather difficult to find an original specimen in good condition, add to the desirability of having a Mama Katzenjammer Bank in a collection.