The Humpty Dumpty Bank and G. L. Fox
It looks as though, with the help of the observant Sy Schreckinger, the mystery of the clown bust bank Humpty Dumpty being so named has been solved. For some years the writer has wondered why a clown bust would be called by a name that has reference to an egg shaped figure having no resemblance to a clown. Fortunate timing on the part of Sy in looking around an antique shop shed light on this whole situation with his finding the engraving of G. L. Fox as Humpty Dumpty.
It seems that Fox was one of the more gifted performers of the 19th century and in his time he was known as the greatest pantomime clown since Grimaldi. On March 10, 1868, he opened in a show in New York City which ran for 483 performances. The show was called Humpty Dumpty and Fox produced the show as well as being its star performer. It seems he was the only performer with enough box office power to keep the art of pantomime alive against the more appealing burlesque. The show Humpty Dumpty brought Fox the supreme success of his career, outdrawing and outplaying anything ever presented before its time, shattering all previous long run records.
The show, insofar as the title goes, had little relationship to Mother Goose or Humpty Dumpty and no real plot in that direction. Apparently certain characters involved marked time until the Fairy Queen transformed Goodie Two Shoes into Columbine, Tommy Tucker into Harlequin, and Humpty Dumpty became Clown. This then led into a variety and spectacle show with roller skaters, circus acts, and singers. The show Humpty Dumpty ran in New York until about 1873 with Fox starring in the role the entire time. He was suddenly institutionalized and died within a few months. It seems that pantomime in its finer form died with Fox and fell into obscurity for years to come.
Thats the story of Fox in rather brief form. One can note the photo copy of the engraving of Fox in makeup and the marked similarity between it and the Humpty Dumpty Bank. There would seem to be no question but that the Humpty Dumpty Bank is an effigy or representation of Fox, and this of course, not only enhances the bank but also puts it into an unusual and very limited group of mechanicals. These banks are those that represent an actual person. Among these that come to mind at the moment are Teddy And The Bear, Queen Victoria Bust, Bismark Bank, and Worlds Fair (Columbus). Of course the banks mentioned, unlike Humpty Dumpty, are obvious representations of the respective individuals and readily recognizable.
Once again another fascinating facet of collecting mechanical banks. Who would have thought of the Humpty Dumpty Bank having connection with a New York show and pantomime performer by the name of Fox. The article on the Humpty Dumpty Bank appeared in the January, 1975, HOBBIES.