|Echo Rainier Ban Corporation, Newsletter, August 11, 1976
Bank Purchases Prof's "Old Friends"
"These are old friends. I really hate to see them go."
Professor Gilbert S.
Schaller was speaking of his collection of 53 antique mechanical banks which
a few days earlier he had agreed to sell to Rainier Bank.
Schaller's face lights up
when he shows his collection, anxious to demonstrate the intricacies of each
bank to visitors. The banks have descriptive names like "Jonah and the
Whale," "Girl Skipping Rope," and "Cow Kicking." Wind a crank or push a
lever and they come alive: Jonah tosses a penny into the whale's mouth and
the girl begins to skip rope expertly.
Made of iron, the banks
represent the best of the iron casting art. They have extremely intricate
mechanical components'— and these two characteristics make them a special
delight to Prof. Schaller. He calls himself an ironmonger, saying he has
worked in iron all his life, and adds that he taught mechanical engineering
at the University of Washington for 42 years.
experience with the mechanical banks was in his childhood days in Mendota,
Illinois, but it wasn't until about 1950 that he began his collection. Since
then he has gathered banks from antique stores, junk shops, and individuals
from New England to San Diego. A Bainbridge Island neighbor of Edward R.
McMillan, SVP and chief economist, Schaller had mentioned that he was
considering selling for security reasons, and McMillan brought the antique
banks to the attention of T. Robert Faragher, chairman, who arranged the
Mechanical banks were
invented in 1869 by a person identified only as Hall, and the new Rainier
Bank collection has the first bank made in it. They were meant as a savings
incentive for children and sold for 25 cents to $1.50. Today those same
banks are worth from one hundred to several thousand
Devoted collectors have
catalogued 245 mechanical penny banks from patents dated between 1869
and 1920, when the last banks were made. Examples of some have never
been found, and it is probable that many of the lost banks were never
actually built even though patents were registered. The banks are
predominantly an American phenomena, although a few British and Canadian
models also were made.
The banks will be stored
temporarily in Northgate's vault. In the future a permanent exhibit at
Rainier Bank Tower is planned.