Its a rare occasion for the writer to report the existence of a heretofore unknown mechanical bank such as the "Darky Fisherman Bank" (Hobbies, January, 1960). To repeat these circumstances in the very next article really establishes a precedent. But such is the case as we reach No. 81 in the numerical classification of the mechanical banks, and the improbable becomes probable as we report the finding of a Tommy Bank. Here again this bank properly belongs further up in the listing, but we will conform to our established policy on this as outlined in previous articles.
The Tommy Bank is a World War I item. That is to say it is from that period and the name "Tommy" referred to any British soldier, the same as the American soldier was called "Yankee" or "Yank." The bank was made by John Harper & Company of England and appeared in their catalogs as late as 1924. This rather late date might leave the impression that the bank should not be too difficult an item to locate, however, this is far from the case, as the opposite is true. Apparently, like several other late rare banks, such as the Clown, Harlequin And Columbine and the North Pole, the Tommy was made in very limited quantities and thus there are not many examples in existence. The writer is very fortunate in having an original catalog of John Harper & Company which illustrates the Tommy Bank. Therefore, it was a bank that was known to have been made, but until the appearance of this specimen had never been found.
The bank shown is from the fine collection of E.T. Richards of Peace Dale, R.I. It was found in a private home located on the Vermont-Massachusetts boundary. It is in completely original condition with good paint. The soldier is dressed in a khaki colored uniform with khaki puttees. His cap is the same color and on the front of the cap there is an unusual type of insignia. The face and hands of the figure are flesh color and his hair is black. The tree trunk is dark brown with a yellow top. The section on which the rifle rests is light brown and the grass is a bright deep green as is the rim around the base of the bank.
On the top of the base, between the tree stump and the soldier appears the name "Tommy" with an exclamation point after the name. On the bottom of the base is the word "Beatrice." The name "Beatrice" was a registered trade mark, Number 224,159, used by Harper as a general name for their line of mechanical banks. This is similar or comparable to the Excelsior Series of banks as issued by Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, New York. For more information on the Harper Beatrice banks and English mechanicals in general please refer to HOBBIES, May, 1957.
The operation of the Tommy is the same as the Wimbledon Bank (HOBBIES, November, 1956). The gun is first set to fire as shown in the picture. In so doing the spring operated mechanism tilts the soldiers head forward as though taking aim. A coin is then placed on the barrel of the gun. Then a lever is pressed which raises the soldiers right arm and hand and this releases the mechanism firing the coin into the tree stump. As the coin is fired the soldiers head snaps back into position.
The Tommy is certainly a rare find in a mechanical bank and Mr. Richards is indeed fortunate to be the possessor of the first known example of this bank. This, of course, is encouraging news to all other mechanical bank collectors and offers each and every one a new challenge for their respective collections.