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His Hobby Is a Houseful of Antique Toys

Leon J. Perelman Restores Society Hill Mansion As a Museum for His Collection

By Blanche Krause
Of The Bulletin Staff

     THE TIN sled with the boy in the red stocking cap going "belly whopper" moves via friction action. 
     So does the "horseless carriage" driven by a tiny woman doll, with a footman riding high on a back seat. 
     They're some of the toys children played with from about 1820 through the early years of this century.
     They will be on display in a special "shoppe" on Head House Square, 2d and Pine sts., as one of the period attractions of Society Hill Week, which runs next Saturday through June 11.


     INTRICATELY fashioned of colorfully painted tin or cast iron, the antique toys are the property of Leon J. Perelman, president of American Paper Products Co., with headquarters here and eight branches throughout the country. 
     Perelman is currently restoring the historic Abercrombie House at 268 S. 2d st. to be a permanent museum for his collection of thousands of old toys. 
     "I want to give the public an opportunity to see this interesting part of our heritage, and I think the Society Hill area is more conducive to exposure than this" this being the $10,000 addition he built on his Merion home in 1962 to house the ever-growing collection. 
     Toys made of tin preceded the cast iron ones, he explained, and the iron ones continued to be made until shortly before World War I.

     MECHANICAL banks are his specialty. Between 1867 and 1902, 243 different types are known to have been manufactured, and collectors all over the United States compete for them. Perelman's collection, with 225 different kinds, is one of the largest. 
     "The banks originally sold for about a dollar, quite an investment for a parent in those days. Today collectors pay as much as $2,500 for some of them," Perelman says. 
     The banks were designed to encourage children to save by providing a variety of action on deposit of a penny. Though they are mostly chipped and scratched from their long years of amusing children, all the Perelman banks are in prime working condition. The museum has a special attendant to see to that. 
     He placed a penny on the breech of a hunter's rifle, pushed a lever and the coin dropped into a hole in a tree trunk. A bear's head popped out of the top of the trunk, and the hunter flipped up his head in surprise. 
     A penny dropped in the roof of a fire house caused bells to ring, doors to fly open and a pumper drawn by four horses to dash out. 
     There are banks where a penny deposit causes a little girl to jump rope; a performing dog to jump through a hoop; a cow to knock a farmer off his milking stool and dump the pail of milk over his face; a Jonah figure to toss the penny into a whale's mouth; and an American flag to wave over the North Pole. 

     WHEN the Abercrombie House museum opens, probably late this fall, guides will be available and regular performances by the mechanical banks will be scheduled. 
     Perelman has been interested in old toys since boyhood when he used to accompany his mother on trips to antique shops. While she sought ceramics, he studied cast iron toys. 
     But the mechanical bank specialty began eight years ago. "There was a hobby show at our Iowa plant, and one fellow had a display of the banks," he recalls. "I bought some of his duplicates, and went on from there."

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