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The Punch and Judy Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine January, 1986

     A little over one-hundred and fifty years ago, those characters we recognize as Punch and Judy were immortalized by the London artist, George Cruikshank. His inspiration was a puppet show created by Piccini, a 19th-century puppeteer.
     The Punch and Judy theme can be traced to early Greek theatre wherein the zany antics of Punch and Judy were acted out on stage, by live actors. Its puppet theatre origin was with the Italian puppeteer, Pulcinello. He is credited with bringing these two characters to seventeenth-century England. From the onset, the enthusiasm with which Punch and Judy were received by the children of England made it apparent that they were here to stay.
     Seizing upon the opportunity to create a toy bank with such appealing subject matter as to guarantee almost instant success, both Peter Adams, Jr. and Charles G. Shepard, of Buffalo, New York, designed and patented the "Punch and Judy" mechanical bank. On July 15, 1884, they were granted Patent number 302,039 (Figure 1). A subsequent Patent, number 15,155, was granted to Adams and Shepard on July 22, 1884, which changed and protected only the external design of the bank (the way it was finally manufactured), Figure 2. The drawings contained in this patent accurately follow the traditional English Punch and Judy puppet theatre.
     The base plate underneath the bank designates its two American patent dates and an English registry number. Stated, in raised letters, is the following: "BUFFALO, N.Y. U.S.A. PAID IN U.S. JULY 15, '84 AND JULY 22, '84 RD IN ENGLAND NO. 10423." When one considers the popularity of Punch and Judy in 19th century England, it is understood why Shepard might have wanted to protect the bank both here and abroad.
     The final production bank shown in Figure 3 was manufactured and sold by the Shepard Hardware Co. of Buffalo, New York.
     All of the banks produced by the Shepard Co., including Punch and Judy, reveal great care and attention to find casting and meticulous paint decoration. Unfortunately, this fine paint was eventually to deteriorate and flake from its surface. The reason was that this most conscientious of manufacturers neglected to use a primer undercoat prior to final painting.
     There are no color variations of the Punch and Judy bank, but there are three casting variations. These pertain solely to the letters which form the words "PUNCH AND JUDY BANK" at the peak of each bank. The bank pictured in Figure 3 is referred to as the" Large Letters" variation. The other two have the name "PUNCH AND JUDY BANK" across a raised arched ribbon in "small" and "medium" block letters. These differences neither add to, nor detract from, the bank's ultimate value.
     The colors of the bank pictured in Figure 3 are extremely attractive and are consistent in all three variants. The frame around the entire front of the bank is bright red. The background of the marquee and the square section under the stage is yellow. The curtain rod is blue, as are the drapes on each side of the stage. The curtain rings and ties are orange. The decorative cross design in the center of the base is maroon, blue and red, as are the sunflower decorations in each of the corners of the lower panel. Punch and Judy are both wearing red and yellow hats. Judy's face is natural pink in color, and each eye has a white cornea with a brown iris and black pupil. She has black hair and eyebrows, and red lips. Her dress is blue with yellow buttons and has a white collar with blue stripes. Her coin tray is black. Punch has a tan, flesh-colored face. The color of his hair, eyes, eyebrows and lips are identical to Judy's. The club he so menacingly holds in his left hand is light brown. The backdrop behind Punch and Judy is tan. The draperies are dark blue with light blue highlights, and the tassels are red and yellow. The base plate underneath the bank is coated with a brown, japan varnish, and the entire back of the bank is painted red.
     The action of the Punch and Judy bank is amusing and quite effective. The long, rounded lever on the right side of the bank is pulled out, causing Judy to turn with her tray and face the front of the bank. Simultaneously, Punch turns away from Judy and raises his club in a threatening manner. A coin is then placed into Judy's tray. The small lever under the long, round lever is pressed. Punch then snaps forward, bringing down his club, as if to strike Judy. She quickly turns toward Punch, depositing the coin from her tray into the bank. These coins are removed by unscrewing the base plate from the bank.
     One can only really appreciate the splendor of this bank when viewed with most of its original paint intact. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find such a fine specimen. When one is located, it is accompanied by an equally fine price tag!
     The Punch and Judy bank has been reproduced; therefore, I am including a base diagram to help the collector determine an original from a reproduction (Figure 4). The recast will appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller in width than the original.

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