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Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank
(The Watermelon Bank)
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 1985

     As stated in previous articles, many mechanical penny banks served as a platform for anti-black and racist sentiments. The stereotypic viewpoint that the black man would go to great lengths to appease his insatiable appetite for watermelon was the subject of many toys for children, including mechanical banks, and appeared in all forms of media (Figure 1).
     The Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank, or, more accurately, the Watermelon Bank (Figures 2, 3) portrays two black children raiding the proverbial "waddermelon" patch, as the farmer's vigilant watchdog tries in vain to protect his master's property.
     To date, I have not been successful in determining the inventor, the manufacturer, or when this bank was patented. The actual years it was offered for public sale recently came to light with the discovery of a catalog page dated 1894-1895 (Figure 2), which shows the New Watermelon Bank priced at a modest $4.00 per dozen!
     There has been much conjecture over the past years that the Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank might have been manufactured by the Kyser and Rex Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This was due to many similarities between it and several others produced by the company. These include similar casting details, paint type, coloration, and the common use of square lock coin traps. However, to date there has been no concrete evidence which links this bank to Kyser and Rex.
     There are two other mechanical banks which share many of the same design similarities as the Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank. And, in addition, they also have in common a lack of knowledge of the inventor, manufacturer, and date of patent. They are the Uncle Remus Bank and the Zoo Bank. If one was to examine all three banks, it would be discovered that they share many of the same colorations and paint application technique. All three have one of the following numbers either molded or incised into their backs: 133, 134, 136, leading to the speculation that each may possibly be part of a series. And, they all share as a part of their design, buildings that utilize foreshortened perspective, to give the illusion of greater depth than the banks actually achieve.
     The action of the Boys Stealing Watermelons is simple, effective, and very charming. A coin is placed within the slot in the roof of the dog house. The lever (Figure 3) is then pressed. Simultaneously, the dog emerges from his house, the prone little boy lowers his right arm (as if to shoo the dog away), and the coin is deposited within the bank. These coins are removed by way of a square lock coin trap in the back of the bank.
     There are no casting variations but there are a few color differences, which pertain solely to the colors of the clothing worn by the two boys. They could be any combination of the following description: both boys have black faces, hands, and feet. The one climbing through the fence has white eyes and a red mouth. He wears red pants, a blue shirt and a yellow hat. The boy who is in a prone position wears a red shirt, yellow pants and sports a blue cap. The fence is white. The dog house is yellow ochre with a red roof. The dog is black with silver highlighting, and he has a red mouth. The watermelons are green with white strips and the ground is painted a reddish brown. The wall that makes tip the base of the bank is white with a black stippled effect. The tree above the dog house is bright green, mottled with red and yellow highlights. The lever (Figure 3) is painted gold and the entire back of the bank is painted black.
     Its size, intricate design, colorful appearance, and subject matter make the Boys Stealing Watermelons an attractive addition to a collection.
     This bank has been reproduced; thus, I am including a base diagram (Figure 4). A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter in length than an original.

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