Schley Bottling Up Cervera Bank
Mechanical banks cover a broad area of subject matter, mainly Americana, and those having historical significance are always of considerable interest. Individuals who have followed these series articles are familiar with the fact that a number of the banks covered by past articles do have historical background involving prominent personalities, events, discoveries, wars, and so on. Many of the banks utilizing history as their subject matter are quite rare, a few are rather common. As we reach No. 105 in the numerical classification we have chosen a unique historical Spanish-American War bank to occupy this position. This unusual bank is the Schley Bottling Up Cervera. It is a complete departure, appearance-wise, from any of the other mechanical banks since it is in the form of a bottle with a large stopper and thus represents an object. Mr. Hegarty, the present owner of the bank, expressed his opinion to the writer that it looks like an old inkwell bottle.
Circumstances concerning the designer, manufacturer, and so on of the Schley Bank are sadly lacking and there is no factual information to pass along. There are no identification marks or dates. On the back of the top part of the bank scratched into the paint appears "Apr. 15 99 V.M.". Mr. Hegarty feels that on this date in 1899 the bank was given by someone or to someone with the initials V.M. The writer is inclined to agree with this as similar circumstances are known to exist with some other mechanical banks and, for that matter, with other types of todays collectibles which were given as gifts in past years.
The bank shown was purchased some time ago by Mr. Fred Draper at an antique show in Ephrata, Pa. It then passed into the hands of one of the pioneer collectors where it remained for a number of years. Frank Ball obtained the bank from this collector recently and passed it along to the present owner, L.C. Hegarty. Needless to say, Mr. Hegarty was quite pleased to add the bank to his fine collection.
The bank pictured is in good condition and completely original with one exception. A photo of Schley has at some time been placed over the original paper sketch of the Admiral. This sketch was damaged and apparently could not be restored properly. The paint is in very good condition and the colors are as follows: The entire piece is painted black, the lettering is in red, and the outlining around the lettering and the stopper is in gold. There is a cloud and sunburst effect around the picture section and the American flag and Spanish flag are painted in their respective appropriate colors.
The operation of the bank is unique but simple. The bank is shown in the accompanying photo after the action has taken place. To reset the mechanism the operator picks the bank up and gives it a quick jerk to the left. This causes the picture of Cervera to appear in place of Schley. When a coin, preferably one of the large old style pennies, is placed in the slot in top of the stopper the picture of Schley replaces that of Cervera, thus bottling him up. A coin cannot be placed in the bank when Schleys picture is showing.
The bank is cast iron and approximately 5 inches high, 3-3/8 inches wide, and 2-3/8 inches deep. It is made in two half sections held together by one screw. The back section has perforations in the bottom half and coins are removed by taking the bank apart. The inside operating mechanism consists of a cast iron piece in a somewhat oval or lobe shape. The front of this piece is covered with paper with the pictures of the Admirals thereon. The back of the piece contains four pins placed in such fashion that a coin, in contacting the pins, causes the piece to flop over showing Schleys picture. Transversely then, when the pins are in this position a coin cannot be inserted as the pins now block the coin slot. It bears mention that this inside part is also weighted in such a way so that it stops in place exposing Cervera, and does not move until a coin is inserted in the bank.
In conclusion a shore resume of the event involving the two Admirals is in order to explain the "bottling up" angle. Its a rather lengthy story but briefly, Winfield Scott Schley, 1839-1911, was an American Naval Officer in the Spanish-American War involved in battle with a Spanish Naval Officer, Pascual Cervera Y Topeta Cervera, 1839-1909. In 1898 Cervera was chosen to command the Spanish Fleet and on July 3rd of that year he was in the bay at Santiago de Cuba with his ships. Schley blocked up the bay with the ships under his command and thus "bottled up" Cervera. Cervera could not navigate from therein under these circumstances. Schley received credit for this maneuver, however, he was late in carrying it out under orders from W.T. Samson and thus endangered the movements of a ship named Texas. This delay in tactics was not brought out until 1901, and while there were some issues made of this at the time no serious charges of damaging consequences ever resulted.