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Mechanical Bank Ramblings
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - June, 1963

The writer, on various occasions, has pointed out that misinformation on mechanical banks is considerably more misleading than no information at all. Specifically, at this time, there appeared in a publication an article on a particular pattern bank. The article started out, in so many words, with the broad, completely erroneous statement that only a few of the mechanical banks could be as completely documented as this certain bank. This is a complete misstatement of fact as actually the majority of the known different mechanical banks can be completely documented and thoroughly authenticated. There was other misinformation in this article but there is no need to go into all points at this time. Sufficient to point out that the bank covered in the article under discussion is not an authentic factory produced item. It is a pattern of a mechanical bank that was never produced commercially. In this pattern form it qualifies as such, along with some other existing patterns of mechanical banks that never reached any actual production stage.

If one wonders why the writer makes a point of a circumstance of this nature, the reason is simple and important. The line must be drawn somewhere. Certainly it cannot be condoned that a person would take a pattern of a bank, cast specimens from this, and then pass them off as collector’s items. This has occurred in the past and can happen again, but it doesn’t change anything insofar as the fact that the banks so produced are not authentic mechanical banks.

Original patterns of mechanical banks that exist today have a value and interest, and certainly it is anyone’s privilege to respect them for what they are. But to pass them off as commercially produced items or anything else other than what they are is misleading and altering the facts. Any mechanical bank cast from a pattern bank that is positively known to have never been used for commercial production is simply a spurious item.

— O —

Now to patent papers for a moment. There are individuals who think that patents are the positive end proof of a given or certain mechanical bank. This is not so. Patent papers are very important, informative, and substantiate many of the banks. They are most helpful in establishing definite dates, patentees, designers, and so on. But they do not establish the fact that any certain bank was manufactured or ever reached any stage of production. Numbers of patents were taken out on mechanical banks that never got beyond this stage. In other cases the banks as produced are totally different than the patents covering them. Usually in these cases a certain principle in the design, operation, mechanism, and so on is adhered to so that the patent applies. Now please note that the writer is in no way diminishing the importance of patent papers as is obvious to those who have read his articles. They are very helpful, but not necessarily the final word or proof on all mechanical banks. Some of the greatest, most desirable, and completely authentic mechanical banks have no patent papers at all.

— O —

Since some general confusion exists on the subject matter of a letter recently received by the writer, we would like to quote this friend’s letter in its entirety:

"I have just finished your article in the February HOBBIES on banks designed and made by Charles A. Bailey.

"I thought that you might be interested in knowing of an iron still bank in the shape of the Liberty Bell on a wood base and marked "Centennial Money Bank 1876 Pat. Apr. 75". On the bottom of the wood base is a paper label barely legible reading ‘Bailey’s Centennial Money Bank’ and also showing the patent date of April, 1875. It gives the history of the Liberty Bell and says that the replica may be used as a bank and a paperweight.

"The April, 1875, patent date is four years earlier than the pocket watch bank described in your article as being Bailey’s first known effort in the field of banks.

"I thought that you might like to have this information."

Well, our friend is correct up to a point, and he would have no way of knowing beyond this point without some degree of research. True, Bailey did patent a Liberty Bell Bank, but it was not Charles A. Bailey. Thomas A. Bailey of Philadelphia, Pa., was the patentee of the Centennial Money Bank. This was under Design Patent No. 8,257 dated April 6, 1875. While Charles Bailey had nothing to do with the Liberty Bell, he did, however, on June 22 of the same year, 1875, patent a bell ringing toy ball with one or more bells permanently suspended therein. These bells were substantially the same as the sleigh type on leather straps, typical of the period.


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