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The Bucking Mule Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1989

      Degradation of the Black Man for the sake of entertainment was not uncommon, and was utilized quite effectively as a theme for mechanical banks. The "Bucking Mule" certainly exemplifies racism in its depiction of a black rider thrown by his mule. However, unlike its contemporaries, the manufacturer of this bank (the Judd Manufacturing Company of Wallingford, Connecticut) did not produce a plethora of mechanicals which focused on bizarre, ridiculous antics of the Negro, or, for that matter, newly immigrated groups to this country. (Specific reference is made to J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, CT, Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, NY, and Kyser & Rex Company of Frankford, PA, who, collectively, left few minority groups unscathed. Ex­amples include: "Uncle Tom," "Mammy and Baby," "Butting Buffalo," "Uncle Remus," "Jolly Nigger," "Stump Speaker," "Darktown Battery," "Darky Watermelon," "Dentist," "Bad Accident," "Breadwinners," "Reclining Chinaman," "Cabin," and "Paddy and the Pig."
     Unfortunately, there is a lack of information pertinent to the inventor and date of manufacture of "Bucking Mule." The Judd Company never actually applied for, or patented, any of their banks. However, an approximation of the time period may be deduced by an ad for the sale of the bank which appeared in an 1893 issue of Marshall Field and Company's toy jobbers' catalog (Figure I). The advertisement itself read as follows: "Colors: Copper and Lacquer .. . $3.60 per dozen, Ebony and Gold ... $4.00 per dozen." Meticulously fine casting detail and simplicity are the attributes associated with banks manufactured by the Judd Company. To illustrate, one may observe the carefully delineated hairs on the animals in "Bear with Paws Around Tree" and "Bulldog Standing," while "Dog on Turntable" and "Mosque Bank" bear testimony to the attention paid to each detail of the bricks incised into the sides of the buildings. Simplicity of the banks refers specifically to their method of operation. A single lever, a nodding head, or a simple crank mechanism were all that Judd needed to bring joy to a small child as the coin was deposited into the slot.
     Operation of the "Bucking Mule" is initiated by pulling both the mule and his ill-fated rider back along the length of the base. A coin is then placed into the slot at the front end of the track. A slight lift to the mule's tail results in its jutting forward, causing the darky to fall, head first, over the front of the mule, with his forehead slamming the coin into the bank. These coins may be removed by unscrewing the entire base of the bank from its sides.
     Most of the mechanicals produced by Judd were painted primarily in metallic colors and various japan varnishes. Their palette included a shiny ebony finish, a purple lacquer, a "fancy" brown japan finish, gold and copper metallic, and an occasional touch of white for an eye or red for a mouth. Examples of Judd banks do exist which differ from the aforementioned by use of multi colors. Some might have been factory-painted but most were the whim of an early collector. Multicolored Judd banks should be closely scrutinized when contemplating a purchase.
     The "Bucking Mule" bank pictured in Figure II is painted entirely in a glossy, ebony finish. The man's shirt is red and his pants are yellow. This color scheme, with its "touch" of color, removes the bank from the "ordinary" category and designates it as a rare example.
     Unfortunately, and understandably, the simplicity of the casting and operating mechanism abetted the prac­tice of abundant reproduction. Thus, exceedingly scarce banks such as "Bucking Mule," "Boy and Bulldog," "Circus Ticket Collector," "Peg Leg Beggar," and "Bear and Tree Stump" are regarded as being quite common. In truth, few collections can boast of all-original, complete examples of these banks.
     Reproductions are easily detected since, unlike the original Judd banks, they are crude and pebbly in appearance and lack the fine, sharp detail indicative of the original.
     Figure III is a base diagram of an original "Bucking Mule." A reproduced version would not necessarily appear smaller than the base diagram, since the original patterns were often used to cast many of the "fakes." The most accurate method of detection is the texture of the surface and lack of definition and fine, sharp detail. Needless to say, the scarcity of original examples reflects accordingly on the price of the bank.
     To conclude, it may be of interest to grade the entire line of Judd banks according to their rarity. In descending order are: "Giant Standing," "Circus Ticket Collector," "Peg Leg Beggar," "Bucking Mule," "Boy and Bulldog," "Mosque," "Bear and Tree Stump," "Bulldog Standing," "Butting Goat," "Gem," "Snap-it," and "Dog on Turntable."

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