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Presto Savings Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - March, 1960

60-03.JPG (16736 bytes)An unusual mechanical bank is our choice as No. 82 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. The bank is the Presto Savings Bank and it is unusual with respect to the fact that it is mainly constructed of wood and paper. That is to say the main framework and operating parts are all made of wood with paper covering on the building. This, of course, is quite different than most of the mechanical banks which are made of cast iron.

The Presto Savings Bank was designed by Charles M. Crandall of Montrose, Pa., and patented by him May 20, 1884. He assigned two-thirds of the patent to Frederick W. Crandall and Benjamin L. Baldwin. The patent papers with the accompanying drawings very clearly describe and picture the bank as it was actually made. So often a mechanical bank was produced in its final form with many variations from the original patent or drawing. However, the Presto Savings Bank is exact in every detail to the drawings in the original patent.

The bank is known to have been sold in the period of 1885-1886 since it is pictured for sale in the Selchow & Righter Catalog dated October 10, 1885, for the Season of 1885-1886. The writer is fortunate in having this catalog, which not only has a fine illustration of the Presto, but illustrates numerous other mechanical banks as well. The writer obtained the catalog from Lawrence B. Romaine of Middleboro, Mass., who is to be commended for his fine work in the old catalog field of Americana.

As to the operation of the bank the actual description as outlined in the Selchow & Righter Catalog is of interest and accurately describes the action:

"Size 6 inches long, 5 inches high, and 2 inches wide.
One-half dozen in box.

This is the most pleasing and ingenious Toy ever invented. The idea is entirely new—and is so cheap and captivating as to insure sale on sight. The operation is quick and decisive, though simple and natural, while the result is surprising. A penny is laid flat-ways on top of the Bank. The operator is then directed to turn the knob and see it disappear. He does so; when Presto! the penny is gone, and quick as lightning a cunning little mouse has taken its place. The money is safe in the Vault, though nobody sees it go; the mouse is turned back to his mysterious hiding place, and the Bank is ready for another deposit. The toy is so simple in mechanism and durable in construction as to insure it from getting out of order. It is very neatly gotten up, and will handle well in the trade."

It might be well to explain several points of interest. The mouse springs from inside the building and in so doing raises the rear peaked section of the roof. This peaked section is hinged by a piece of cloth at the extreme end of the roof. After the mouse springs into the position as shown in the picture the section merely drops back into place. On the flat part of the roof between the two peaks appears the wording "Lay Penny Here." The penny when in this position, is actually knocked forward by the lever to which the mouse is attached and slides into the coin slot located in the front section of the roof.

The bank shown is in unusually fine condition and particularly so when one considers the fact that the entire building is wood with decorated paper covering. The sides of the building have a brick-like representation in red with black lining between the bricks. The roof is white with a shingle type representation. The front of the building has the word "Presto" at the top, and "Savings Bank" across the center. The window glass is realistically done in a blue shading and there is gray, dark gray, and blue coloring on the door, window tops, and outlinings of the front entrance. The mouse is a gray felt-like material and quite realistic with its black beady eyes.

The Presto Savings Bank is from the extensive collection of John D. Meyer and so far it is the only known specimen in existence. It was found some years ago by Gerald Patton, well known antique dealer of Duncansville, Pa.

In closing, it might be well to mention, that some years ago a crude, unattractive replica of the Presto Savings Bank was made, with sheet iron sides and roof and a cast iron front and back. This replica has very little resemblance to the fine original specimen under discussion. Only a few were made to try to fool collectors at the time, and this was before an original specimen was known about in collecting circles. Another word of caution is not to confuse the Presto Savings Bank with the Presto Bank (HOBBIES, September, 1956) or the small cast iron building with a false bottom drawer which has the single word "Presto" as its name.


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