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Weeden’s Plantation Saving Bank
by F.H. Griffith - HOBBIES Magazine - August, 1963

63-08.JPG (20943 bytes)A tin mechanical bank with a windup mechanism that furnishes sustained action to the figures involved is our choice as No. 113 in the numerical classification of mechanical banks. This bank has been called the Weeden’s Plantation Darky Savings Bank, but is more commonly known as Weeden’s Plantation and occasionally is referred to as the Plantation Bank. It has a rather interesting background since it is one of the few mechanical banks known to have been given as a premium item. The bank was sold commercially through regular channels, however, in addition to this the Youth’s Companion offered the Weeden’s Plantation as a free premium item to those who sold subscriptions to their magazine. Of further interest is the fact that when originally put on the market it was produced for a period of years and then discontinued for a number of years, only to be revived again and manufactured once more for a period of time.

The Weeden Manufacturing Company of New Bedford, Mass., manufactured the Plantation Bank as well as several very interesting and similar companion banks. Their banks have in common the rectangular box shape in tin with a windup mechanism that provided a certain timed action for each coin inserted, The Weeden’s Plantation has a somewhat different appearance than the others since the roof slants to the rear and it is intended to look like an old shed or shack.

One of Weeden’s banks is very rare, and this is the Ding Dong Bell (HOBBIES, October, 1954). Of possible greater rarity and desirability is the Japanese Ball Tosser (HOBBIES, July, 1961). This bank under existing circumstances cannot be classed in any area since, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, no specimen has ever been found to date. In addition to the information on this bank in the July, 1961, article, the writer has an original wooden box for the Ding Dong Bell Bank and the paper label on this box lists the Japanese Ball Tosser along with the Plantation and Ding Dong Bell. So it certainly must have necessarily been manufactured and it follows logically that somewhere there should be an example or two of this bank in existence today. Transversely, the bank may have been manufactured in a very limited quantity, only a certain number sold, and, therefore, it is possible that there are no surviving specimens.

The Weeden’s Plantation has the following patent information printed on a paper label on the back: "Five U.S. Patents Aug. 7, 1888." Usually it is not too difficult to locate patent papers when the month, day, and year are known. When necessary one can go through all patents of the particular day involved. Now and then, however, this does not work, and in the case of the Plantation Bank the writer has had no success so far in locating any papers whatsoever, let alone five patents as stated on the original label. Further research may bring the papers to light. In any event, the bank was very definitely made in the late 1880’s and through the 1890’s since it was offered by the Youth’s Companion in that period. As mentioned, the manufacture of the bank was discontinued for some years and then around 1918 or so it was once more put on the market. The same dies and so on were used and the banks made in this period were identical to the earlier models.

The bank shown is from the ever increasing collection of Leon Perelman of Merion, Pa. Lee, by the way, has set up a very fine addition to his home just to house his mechanical banks, toys, and other of his interests. It is a very attractive setup and the writer was pleased to have the opportunity of looking it over recently.

The paint on the bank shown is in reasonably good condition and the figure of the Jigging Negro is original. This figure simply hangs on the operating lever and more often than not is missing. The shed is painted white with the roof and bottom section in red. Gold outlining is used, and on one side of the shed there appears the following wording in gold: "Jig Dancin’ "; on the other side also in gold "Pete Jonson" - "Banjo Lessuns" - "One Cent." The figure of the dancer has a white hat, red shirt, blue trousers and brown shoes. The figure of the banjo player is painted the same and he holds a brown and white banjo. He is sitting on a brown bale of cotton. The base, back and other parts of the inside structure of the bank are wood. A paper label covers the back section above a locking coin door. This door has the terminology "Coin Safe" thereon. Instructions to operate the bank and how to unlock it appear on the paper label along with the name and date. The key to the coin safe is also held in place on the paper label section. The operating instructions state that a penny or nickel be used.

To operate the bank it is first wound by turning the winding key counter-clockwise as indicated by an arrow. Then a penny is inserted in the coin slot on the lower side of the shed. The dancer starts to jig and the banjo player’s right arm moves as though playing the instrument. This action continues for a certain length of time and then stops automatically. It is necessary to insert another coin for more action. This continues on in this fashion until the mechanism runs down and then, of course, it is necessary to rewind. It is a very nice action bank and the dancer really steps it out.

In closing a word about the Weeden Manufacturing Company is in order. A friend of the writer’s Mrs. Sara Lowe of New Bedford, Mass., has kindly furnished the following information and we quote:

"The following is taken from page 475 of ‘History of New Bedford and its Vicinity’ (1602-1892) by Leonard B. Ellis, 1892, D. Mason & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N.Y.:

"The Weeden Manufacturing Company – The company occupies the two story brick building Nos. 112 and 114 North Water Street. The business was founded in 1883 by the late William N. Weeden of New Bedford. In 1884 Mr. Weeden invented a toy engine under an arrangement with Perry Mason & Company, publishers of the Youth’s Companion, and later this scientific toy was patented, and has been largely manufactured since. Movable toys are also manufactured, as well as other novelties in metal. A stock company was formed in July, 1887, with a capital stock of $50,000, and the business has steadily increased. The company employs seventy-five workmen with a weekly payroll of $500. The present officers are as follows: President, J. Arthur Beauvais; Treasurer, Charles E. Barney; Directors, J. Arthur Beauvais, Charles E. Barney, George S. Homer, and Edward S. Brown."

It bears mention that Weeden Manufacturing is responsible for one of the finest and most desirable toys ever produced. This is the Weeden’s Live Steam Fire Engine, and Mrs. Lowe was directly responsible in helping the writer obtain the original display model that the Weeden Company had on exhibit for many years. Needless to say, it is all in perfect original condition.


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