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Peg-Leg Beggar Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - October, 1960

60-10.JPG (11027 bytes)A mechanical bank with a more or less charitable motif is our choice as No. 88 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank is the Peg-Leg Beggar and it is rather appropriate in its representation of the typical street type of beggar who was a common sight in our cities throughout the country some years ago.

The subject matter of the Peg-Leg Beggar has a counterpart in another mechanical bank, namely Patronize The Blind Man And His Dog (HOBBIES, March, 1955). Here we have the blind man appealing for coins which, when given to him, are thoughtfully taken from his hands by his dog and deposited safely away.

The theme of charity in both the Peg-Leg Beggar and Patronize The Blind Man And His Dog had and still have a definite appeal to any person or child in stimulating the desire to put a coin in either of the banks. This is a worthwhile feature and of considerable interest to the collector when one considers the fact that these two mechanical banks, as compared with the other known mechanical banks, have an entirely different approach to the underlying objective of all mechanical banks, and that is the encouragement to formulate the habit of saving one’s money.

The Peg-Leg Beggar is unfortunately another one of the banks whose background is an unknown quantity.

Neither the designer or manufacturer is known and there are no outstanding characteristics about the bank that lead to any particular designer or concern. Also there are no markings of any kind on the bank that possibly might offer a clue as to its origin.

Fortunately, however, we can definitely establish the period in which the bank was made. Ehrich’s Fashion Quarterly for the Summer of 1880 pictures the bank for sale and describes it as follows:

"The Beggar Bank. Represents a one-legged negro sitting with his hat in his hands begging. On dropping a coin into the hat it instantly disappears, while the beggar nods his head in acknowledgement." It is also interesting to note that Ehrich’s sold this bank for 50 cents each and priced it as such in the same 1880 advertisement.

The bank shown has been in the writer’s collection for a number of years and it is entirely original and in fine condition. The figure of the beggar sits on a box-like base and this base has perforations in the sides. A screw through this base holds the bank together as it is made in two halves, and the head pivots at the neck and is held in place by these halves. Coins are removed from the bank by loosening the screw and taking the bank apart.

The finish on the bank is in a good state of preservation. The clothes of the beggar, as well as the box-like seat, are a copper bronze-like color. His right shoe, peg-leg, hat, hands, and face are all black. There are also black buttons down each side of the front of his overcoat. Between the lapels of his coat there is a white shirt-like effect and this has red edging in the center. His mouth is red and his eyes white with black pupils.

As to the operation of the bank, this has already been fairly well covered in the quote from the original ad in Ehrich’s Fashion Quarterly. The coin when dropped into the hat goes through a slot and engages a balanced lever that is fastened to the head of the figure. The weight of the coin tilts the lever back causing the head to tilt forward as though nodding in thanks for the coin.

The Peg-Leg Beggar is a simple but very interesting bank and rather difficult to find in good original condition. It is a desirable mechanical bank to have in a collection.


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