|SYRACUSE HERALD-AMERICAN, Sunday, February 1, 1953, page 50
TOY BANK FANCIER. Laurence A. Johnson inspects
"Teddy and the Bear," one of the banks in his
Banks Come to Life
On Johnson's Shelves
By PEG CRAM
ANTIQUE MECHANICAL BANKS are the hobby of
Laurence A. Johnson, 1202 Broad St.
Keenly interested in Americana, Johnson finds his collection "as American as
corn on the cob."
The den of his ranch-style
home forms an interesting display of the money-preserving curios. The banks
line pale pink shelves which match pink flowered
wallpaper in the room.
figure in the display is a Ferris wheel bank, commemorative of the Chicago
World's Fair of 1892-93, where the Ferris wheel was first introduced in an
SHINING from the shelves are a banjo player, sad faced clowns, organ
grinders, Punch and Judy, athletes, various caricatures of people, Oriental
heads and dancers.
miniature zoo of animals adorn some of the banks, including elephants, a
monkey, mules, dogs, a lion, a milking cow, frogs and birds.
bit of winding here, and the insertion of a coin there, the quiet orderly
den can rapidly be transformed into a scene of action with the little
figures on the shelves coming to life like doll dancers in a magic
ATHLETE decorating an iron bank suddenly swings a baseball bat; a mule
kicks, a bird pecks down into her nest, Punch and Judy come to life, a girl
skips rope, a bulldog opens his mouth. Following each movement, money
jingles into its proper resting place in an intricately designed mechanical
could spend a day viewing Johnson's fascinating display.
the hobbyist's most prized curios is called "Teddy and the Bear Bank." It is
operated in this way: A miniature figure representing the late Theodore
Roosevelt points a gun at a bear seeking cover in a hollow tree trunk,
patterned after an actual experience of the late President. A coin is placed
in the gun and when a lever is pressed, Teddy shoots the coin into a hole in
the tree trunk and the head of the bear springs up.
LECTURING ON banks at a club in town, Johnson narrated the following
of Roosevelt's hunting expeditions in Mississippi, he indignantly refused to
shoot a bear cub. A cartoonist, the late Clifford
Berryman, was present and the next day in a drawing coined the expression,
'Teddy Bear.' The idea was popular with the public and hence the Teddy Bears
came into Vogue as toys."
witnessed an astounding rise in costs of the tricky little money containers.
For example, banks which used to sell for $.62 today might bring anywhere
from $100 to $125. It is not uncommon for others to be worth $2,500 at
has traced the progress of toy banks, which were first made from tin and
wood, to milk glass, pottery, porcelain and cast iron.
Interested in mechanical banks since he was a child, Johnson has enjoyed
reading about them and making a study of them.