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GRAMERCY GRAPHIC, January 1959

The Bank for Savings Exhibits
Ferguson Mechanical Banks

OVER a period of eight years, William F. Ferguson, formerly vice president of The Bank for Savings, 280 Fourth Avenue, pursued a fascinating hobby-the collection of mechanical coin banks. When he retired in 1948, after 41-1/2 years with the bank, he gave it his entire collection. A number of the items are now on view in the main banking room and will remain until the end of February.
        The mechanical ingenuity shown in many of these banks is amazing; and it is easy to see how they must have stimulated saving. Who wouldn't like to give an eagle a penny, and have it flip it from its mouth to eaglets in the nest? That's what happens with one of the banks in his display, and a similar one is pictured at the bottom of this page in a reproduction of the card originally used to advertise it. Other novelties in the exhibit are a mother hen, from under whose wings come chicks when you drop a penny in the slot; a monkey, hat in one hand, paddle in the other from which he flips a penny into the organ. Or there's a bulldog who flips a penny from his nose into his mouth, his interior being the bank; or the Indian who shoots a penny from a gun into a bear .


 
This was at one time one of the most popular mechanical banks. This illustration is from a colored card which was used as an advertisement. Operation depends upon the pressing of a lever. As the eagle dips down to "feed" the eaglets, she spreads her wings at the same time, and a little squeak comes from a bellows inside as she opens he mouth and the coin drops into the bank.


In the case of this "Merry-Go-Round" bank, the coin is placed
 in the tray by a little man (right) ; turn the crank and the coin drops
 into the bank as the animals go round, while the little man urges
 them on with a whip and the bells ring.

        Mr. Ferguson, who now resides at 89 Bon Air Drive, New Rochelle, N. Y., does not collect banks any more, and his other collections of milk glass, plates, beehive items (the beehive is the symbol of The Bank for Savings) are as large as he wants them to be. His chief occupation now and has been for the past decade is collecting pictures and writing the history of the village of Worcester, N. Y., where he was born. He has completed eight volumes of this painstaking work, and has still more to do. When the history is completed, it will be a complete pictorial and written record of every house and every family in the village. Eventually it will be turned over to the New York State Historical.


This bank is eight inches long, and was finished in bronze or "fancy colors."
The coin is placed in the cannon. When the hammer is pushed back
and the thumb piece pressed upon, the coin is fired into the fort or tower.

        As to the mechanical bank collection, which he still regards with fondness, he has written the following :

I COLLECTED
MECHANICAL BANKS
By William F. Ferguson

        I began collecting banks one day in 1934 when, just by chance, I wandered with some other people into a little red barn antique shop. Looking around at "the old things" I spied a bank and was reminded of an article I had recently read of a noted collector's banks. The specimen before me had been particularly described in the article, therefore it must be a rare one.
        I asked the price $5 "what a terrible price for an old second hand toy!" I thought. Turned it down, of course, but while my friends were still busy, I kept walking back to examine it, getting more interested all the time. Fearing I'd never have such a chance at a bargain, I bought it. In due time I found I had paid top price. This wasn't a rare bank just one of the most interesting ones. It was a "Tammany Bank," patented in 1873 and '75, representing Boss Tweed a little man sitting in a chair with his hand out for money. The weight of a coin made his arm drop down, the coin dropped into his breast pocket and he nodded his head.
        Made Many Friends
       
This was the beginning of my eight years' intensive collecting of mechanical  banks. Combined with my love for motoring trips, this new collecting interest took me out in the country from Maine to Virginia. It started many lasting acquaintanceships with many fine people antique dealers and especially several collectors, a lasting friendship. Of course, being a Savings Banker, must have added to my interest in banks.
        Back in the 1930's the depression days people needed money and were willing to let dealers search their attics for "the old stuff that might bring in some cash." Dealers were anxious for a quick turnover and since there were perhaps only a dozen or two of bank collectors, we had good pickings. No one knows just how many collectors there are now, but it's over a thousand, I'm sure.
        The question-which is the most valuable bank? is hard to answer. Of the two hundred and fifty different mechanicals known there are several of which only one has been found. These are scattered among different owners and perhaps each think their own is the most valuable, but I doubt if any one of them would bring the price paid a few years back for the "Harlequin, Clown and Columbine" (1877) of which there are at least six in existence the most coveted bank of them all. It is a wind-up bank, with the three traditional pantomime figures standing on the base. When a coin is inserted and lever pressed, the Columbine is twirled around by the Clown.
        The price a bank sells for depends mainly on the number of that kind which shows up, varied a bit according to desirability, that is, as to whether they are more or less interesting in mechanical action. Late in the 1870's some makers of mechanical toys and "still" banks in the shape of animals, safes and the like, conceived the idea of putting out a mechanical bank. (To be continued)

 Here the Clown, Harlequin and Columbine  put on a combination
stunt. Columbine  pirouettes around the clown.


Popularly known as "Teddy and the
Bear," this bank demonstrates the rather
unlikely (in real life) happening of
Teddy firing into a stumpo (top closed),
whereupon  the bear pops up.
Height of this was nine inches.

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