The general basic idea or purpose behind most of the mechanical banks was to produce an animated toy with certain mechanism and action that would appeal to children and encourage and stimulate their interest to save pennies and other coins. On this basis alone, excluding the commercial phase at the moment, it is surprising how few of the known different mechanical banks made over the many years of their popularity depict children playing games as such or simply at play. This broad field of subject matter, certainly of interest to children, seems to have been largely left untouched by the various designers and manufacturers of mechanical banks. Just to name a few for example, such play and games as shooting marbles, hide and seek, teeter-totter, croquet, swinging, tag, spinning tops, hopscotch, and many others are not represented. Strangely enough the mechanical banks that were made utilizing only a few specific types of this theme are for the most part rather scarce and hard to find. These include the Girl Skipping Rope (HOBBIES, April, 1952), the Roller Skating Bank (HOBBIES, August, 1952), and the more available bank we have chosen as No. 117 in the numerical classification the Leap-Frog. There is another rare possibility and this is the Coasting Bank, should an example ever turn up. Two other possible considerations are the Boy On Trapeze (Frenchs Automatic Bank) and the Merry-Go-Round (HOBBIES, December, 1951). Borderline banks like Darktown Battery (Baseball), A Calamity (Football) (HOBBIES, November, 1958), and others of this nature are considered to be more representative of specific sports as such and are thus grouped in this category.
The Leap-Frog Bank is a very fine example of children, boys in this case, at play and best represents this theme, along with the Girl Skipping Rope and Roller Skating. It was patented September 15, 1891 by Charles G. Shepard and Peter Adams of Buffalo, N.Y. Adams was the assignor to Walter J. Shepard, also of Buffalo. The patent in this case is a design patent and relates to the configuration of a toy savings bank which represents the game of leap-frog. The diagram or sketch accompanying the text of the design patent is practically identical to the bank as actually produced. It was manufactured by the Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, an outstanding producer of mechanical banks. As a matter of fact, until the Shepard line of banks was taken over by Stevens they possibly ranked on a par with or were second only to Stevens in this specialized field. Remembering, of course, that Stevens started some ten years or more before Shepard in producing mechanical banks, and then after acquiring the Shepard line of banks Stevens continued to manufacture certain of the former Shepard mechanical banks for many years under their own name.
Leon Perelman, a collector who has real interest and pride in his collection of mechanical banks, is the owner of the Leap-Frog pictured. It is in good original condition and the paint, while showing some wear and chipping, is in an unusually good state of preservation for this particular bank. Colors are as follows: The base is green with the name in gold, the tree stump is dark brown shaded with gray, and the top and other markings are yellow. The back fence is yellow with some white in the board separations. The plate that encloses the mechanism and covers the back of the fence is red. The boy in the stooping position has a red cap and knickers, blue socks and shirt with red and yellow trim. The other boy has a blue cap and knickers, red socks, and a yellow shirt with red trim. Details of the face of each boy, including eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and so on are exceptionally well done. This is the case with all the mechanical banks produced by Shepard where facial detail was concerned.
It bears mention at the moment that a number of the Shepard mechanical banks are quite difficult to find with the original paint in fine or better condition. Including the Leap-Frog, others are Uncle Sam (especially so), Mason Bank, Trick Pony, Speaking Dog, Jonah And The Whale (HOBBIES, February, 1964), Circus Bank (HOBBIES, October, 1952), Humpty Dumpty, Picture Gallery (HOBBIES, March, 1958), and Punch And Judy. Any collector possessing all these banks with original paint in fine to mint condition can feel they have achieved a goal that is very difficult to accomplish.
The bank as pictured is shown at the middle point of its operation. To operate the bank the figure of the leaping boy is placed in position behind the figure of the boy in the stooping position. A coin is then placed in the provided slot in the top of the tree trunk where it stays in place. A lever in the rear of the bank is then moved to the side and the boy in the standing position leaps over the other boy, and in so doing depresses a lever on the tree trunk with his right hand which causes the coin to drop automatically into the bank. The bank is reset by hand as described for subsequent operation.
The Leap-Frog makes a nice addition to a collection, particularly so with its exceptional realistic action. The mechanism which causes this action is unusual and quite clever. It is not felt necessary to go into detail on this; sufficient to point out, however, that it is unique and completely different than any other known mechanical bank.
It is with much regret the writer reports the death of Edward T. Richards of Peace Dale, R.I., on January 14, 1964.
Ed was very well known in the mechanical bank collecting field and both he and his wife, Grace, were most avid and enthusiastic in their efforts of building up an outstanding collection of mechanical banks.
Mr. Richards founded and presided over for many years the Mechanical Bank Collectors Club of Rhode Island and was the prime organizer and president of the Mechanical Bank Collectors Club of America. He was also a well known and leading attorney with offices in Providence, R.I.
We know that many HOBBIES readers who knew him personally will be deeply touched, as was the writer, by the sad news of his untimely death.