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

Referring to last month’s article on the Weeden’s Plantation Savings Bank, it was pointed out that the paper label on the back showed five patents under the date of August 7, 1888. The writer stated that he had been unsuccessful in locating the patent papers and, of course, five patents on one mechanical bank is unique. The situation offered somewhat of a challenge to the writer knowing that five patents must exist or the information on the bank itself was completely wrong. Well, after going into the matter further, the copies of the patent papers are now in the writer’s possession. It’s no wonder they were difficult to locate since each of the five patents have to do with watches and clocks. They are all under the date of August 7, 1888 and taken out by William N. Weeden of New Bedford, Mass., assignor to the Weeden Manufacturing Company of the same place. The patents are as follows:

387,469 Arbor for clocks, watches, etc.
387,470 Means for making pinions for clocks and watches
387,471 Pinions for clocks, watches, etc.
387,472 Method of making pinions for clocks and watches
387,548 Method of making arbors for clocks and watches

So here’s a case where the patent papers on a mechanical bank are in a completely different group and class than those covering toy money boxes, or for that matter anything remotely connected with a mechanical bank. The five patents, of course, actually cover part of the clock-like mechanism of the Plantation Bank, and not the bank itself.

Now please refer to HOBBIES for August 1962, and the article on the Bank of Education & Economy. Here you will note that complete information is given on the bank itself as to the date, April 30, 1895, and the manufacturer, Proctor Raymond Company, Buffalo, N.Y. There is no question about this, however, the actual patent papers had eluded the writer, but he knew they must exist. To make a long story short, an original copy of the patent is now in the writer’s possession. Here again this patent was far and away from the group and class of toy savings banks. It is dated, as stated on the bank, April 30, 1895, and the patentee was James S. Barcus of Chicago, Ill. The patent was issued to cover a "Coin Controlled Apparatus for Advertising and Educational Systems." The patent consists of five sheets, three of which contain eight diagrams of the apparatus that, when actually produced, resulted in a toy savings device, the Bank of Education & Economy.

While we are on the subject of patent papers there are two other mechanical banks previously covered by classification articles whose papers seemed continually to elude the writer. These papers have been found recently by the writer and this situation can now be clarified.

The patent on the Sportsman Bank (HOBBIES, June, 1952) was issued June 14, 1892 to Edwin I. Pyle of Bridgeport, Conn. As stated in the papers the patent covers a "Mechanical Toy," not a money box or toy savings device. This toy patent was simply converted into a mechanical bank when produced by the J. & E. Stevens Company. While the patent did not cover a savings device as such, it did cover the mechanism, working parts and figures of the hunter and bird. As a matter of fact the Sportsman Bank as produced by Stevens closely follows the original diagrams in the patent papers as to the figures of the hunter, bird, and so on.

The papers covering the English made Football Bank (HOBBIES, December, 1956) were issued as a design register. This department, the Register of Designs, is in the Patent Office in London, England. The registration number 247,326 was assigned to the Football Bank and registered January 7, 1895 by John Harper & Company, Ltd., the manufacturers of the bank. The negative photostat copy of the representation of the bank as supplied to the writer by the Patent Office is identical to the bank as produced by Harper.

— O —

An interesting little bank has recently come into the possession of the writer through the good help of Arnold Johnson of the 1738 House, Petersham, Mass. Since the bank represents a watch we will call it the Watch Bank. It was purchased by Mr. Johnson at a small antique show in the area.

The Watch Bank is made of sheet iron and the finish is nickel plate. It is a stamping, very nicely done with attractive decoration and wording. The hands on the face of the watch are set at 8 minutes past 10. Between the hands appears the wording "Chase Poverty." Under the hands is inscribed "Check Waste Create Thrift." Below this in a circle where the second hand would normally be appears "Copyright Patent Apd." In a diamond shaped section in the middle of this circle appears "C. L. Russell, N.Y." In the center of the back of the watch there is inscribed an inverted horseshoe. Around this is the following wording "Holds 25 Dimes" – "Just Fill It" – "It Will Open" – "Then Re-Lock."

The bank as far as the way it was made, material and finish, is similar to the Pistol Bank, which was also made in cast iron at an earlier date. (HOBBIES article on Pistol Bank, December, 1961). The operation of the Watch Bank is the same principle as the Safety Locomotive (HOBBIES, September, 1960). This places it as a borderline bank in the mechanical to semi-mechanical area. It is not a registering bank as there is no registering mechanism.

Naturally the writer wanted to find out all he could about the Watch Bank as to the date of manufacture and so on. In his opinion, judging from the bank itself, he placed it in the 1920’s.

His initial approach was to operate the bank and this turned out to be a stroke of luck. The coins are inserted in a provided slot by the top wind stem ring. Sure enough after 25 dimes the bank opened automatically, and inside the bank was the original paper label! This reads as Follows:

How to Relock This Bank

Place the lip, on the bottom of this case, in the slot, in the other case, under the figure 5; bring the two cases together so that the rings over the figure 12 meet; press, and the bank is locked again.

Charles Lee Russell,
199 Cook St.
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Now to finding out about the bank. The writer first sent a letter to Mr. Russell at the address shown. This was returned as unknown. Meantime he sent a letter to the Brooklyn Public Library. The next step was to check all patentees by the name of Russell. This the writer did, including all patents and design patents from 1886 to 1945. No luck—no Charles Lee Russell with a bank patent.

The Brooklyn Public Library, and in particular the Business Library, came through with flying colors. They maintain back files of the Brooklyn Telephone Book in microfilm. This disclosed the following: in a 1920-21 Book a listing for Russell, C.L., metal nvlts, 199 Cook Street. The book for 1923 has this listing, Russell, Chas. L., Mfr. savings banks, 199 Cook. Continued checking indicates the same listing through 1925. The 1926 book and on no longer lists Mr. Russell.

So there is no question but that the Watch Bank was made during the 1920 to 1925 period and that most likely 1925 was the end of it.

It is a nice little bank, and unlike Charles Bailey’s earlier watch type still bank, this one has nice mechanism inside with springs and so on, and is definitely in the mechanical category.


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