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The Butting Buffalo Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – September, 1988

     Bizarre, with racist undertones, would perhaps be an apt description of the subject of this month's article, the "Butting Buffalo" mechanical bank. However, prior to its discussion and certainly worthy of mention is its producer, the well-known and esteemed former toy manufacturer, Alfred C. Rex and Company of Frankfort, Pennsylvania. The company was founded in 1879 by Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex but experienced a name change in 1884 to Alfred C. Rex and Company subsequent to the departure of Mr. Kyser. During its nineteen years of operation, Kyser and Rex/Alfred C. Rex and Company may be credited with the creation of several of the most beautifully designed, cast and decorated mechanical banks that had ever been produced. Examples of these which, in addition, portray anti-black sentiment are: "Mammy and Baby," "Uncle Tom," "Boy Stealing Watermelons," and "Uncle Remus." With banks such as the aforementioned, it is easily understood why this company takes its place alongside the J. and E. Stevens Co. and Shepard Hardware as the three most distinguished me­chanical bank manufacturers of all time.
     The "Butting Buffalo" was patented on March 2, 1888, by its inventor, Alfred C. Rex, and was granted Patent number 379,607. As evidenced by the Patent drawings in Figure 1, the final production bank (Figure 2) adhered quite closely to the original designs. The following description by Rex (Patent papers, Figure 1) exemplifies the Rube Goldberg-type* lengths to which a toy designer might reach in order to accomplish a racist statement: "In the bank illustrated in the drawings I have shown the casing in the form of a piece of ground and the stump of a tree, from the top of which is pivoted the representation of a raccoon, and to the side of the tree is pivoted the rep­resentation of a boy in the act of climbing up the tree after the raccoon. In the rear of the boy is a horned animal in the act of butting the boy and assisting him up the tree."
     Operation of the "Butting Buffalo" is initiated by placing a coin into the slot atop the tree stump. The lever at the end of the bank is then pushed downward. Simultaneously, the buffalo raises its head, nudging the boy upward; the raccoon withdraws into the top of the tree and the coin falls into the bank. The money is retrieved by removal of a square key-lock coin retainer under the base of the bank.
     There are two known color and casting variants of the "Butting Buffalo" bank. One is painted with an overall dark brown japan finish. This type of finish is always accompanied by the lack of bump cast into the base, just under the boy's legs. This "bump" is evident in the second variant illustrated in Figure 2, whose colors are as follows: the boy's arms, legs and face are painted black. He has white eyes with black pupils and a red mouth. He sports a red shirt, yellow trousers and a blue hat. The buffalo is painted dark brown japan with mane and horns highlighted in silver. It also has white eyes with black pupils and a red mouth. The raccoon is dark brown with white eyes and black pupils. The tree stump is an overall dark brown japan finish with green vines and bronze-colored flowers creeping up its sides. The top of the stump is yellow. Finally, the base is painted bright green, splotched with red and yellow, and the activating lever is gold. Cast into the underside of the base of both variants are the words, "PAT. APLD. FOR."
     The "Butting Buffalo" is quite scarce since it contained, as did most Kyser and Rex/Alfred C. Rex banks, several extremely fragile castings. The possessor of an unbroken, complete, and superb all-original example may consider himself/herself quite fortunate indeed.
     This bank has been reproduced. Thus, I am including a base diagram (Figure 3). A reproduction will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch shorter in length than an original.
     *Rube Goldberg — a world famous cartoonist who concocted fantastic and convoluted contraptions in order to perform an otherwise uncomplicated task (i.e., to turn on a light switch).

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