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"Under The SUN’S Bonnet"
Cambridge Chronicle Sun — 1950

The story of a Cambridge man and his unusual hobby was written for the Chronicle-Sun this week by John S. Fleming, sun of Dr. Patrick J. Fleming, the city physician.

We liked the story so much that we decided to print it in this column just as it came from John’s typewriter. Here it is:—

* * * * *

One of the most unusual collections in the city is the accumulation of old mechanical banks which Frank L. Ball, of 45 Fresh Pond lane, has gathered together.

The banks are the kind children of 75 years ago used to receive as gifts. Every time a youngster deposited a penny, the mechanism would go into action.

When we were looking at his collection, Mr. Ball put a penny into position on a William Tell bank and immediately a figure representing the legendary Swiss patriot shot it, knocking the apple off his son’s head and casting the penny into the window of a tower, causing a bell to ring inside.

He also has an Eagle and Eaglet bank. When this is in motion, the mother eagle feeds her youngster with the penny. Another bank features a monkey throwing a coin to a lion, and still another has a monkey putting a coin into a coconut.

Uncle Sam takes on the role of a miser in one bank which has the venerable gentleman dropping pennies into a capacious carpetbag.

Other banks in the collection, which is currently on display at Elizabeth Webber’s Gift and Knit Shop, 1759 Mass. ave., include the Hen and Chicks, the Clown on a Globe, and Punch and Judy.

These toy banks are now sought after by collectors and the rarer types have become quite valuable. Mr. Ball started his collection while he was an executive with the N. E. Power Co., and since his retirement in 1948, his hobby has developed into a business.

Mr. Ball says that when he first saw these banks 15 or 20 years ago, "they intrigued me on account of the cleverness of their design and the way they were made — all of cast iron. I got one or two and commenced to investigate. I found there were other collectors. Getting in touch with them, I tried to find as many banks as I could."

Mechanical banks are not Mr. Ball’s sole concern. He has hundreds of still banks (which have no mechanical action) and a large assortment of toys, many of them old-fashioned and some of them unique.

In his cellar are specimens of live steam model trains, key-wound miniature locomotives with cars, and some of the earliest electric trains.

He also has toy steamships, cap pistols, a wide variety of model automobiles, and models of circus equipment, too.

During the recent war, Mr. Ball used his mechanical banks as window displays to encourage the sale of War Bonds.

Bankers are among the most avid collectors of such banks, he said, and mechanical banks are on exhibition in a number of banking institutions throughout the country.

Mr. Ball finds that, thanks to his activities as a dealer and collector, he has no trouble keeping busy since his retirement.

He hunts down banks the way that Sherlock Holmes hunted down law-breakers, and travels throughout New England and to other states as well trying to track down some rare mechanical bank to add to his collection.

 

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