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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.
     Schaller's first 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 purchase.
     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
dollars.
     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.


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