The Spring-Jawed Bulldog
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – June, 1990
The "Spring-Jawed Bulldog" (Figure I) is one of
seven subjects which comprise a series of banks known as the
"Spring-Jawed" mechanicals. Other members of this unique set include:
Bonzo, the dog; an alligator; a mule; a chimpanzee; parrot; and a kitten.
Although the entire Spring-Jawed group is scarce, the "Bulldog" is
considered one of the rarest. Because only three or four examples are
known to exist in collections, it also qualifies for inclusion into the
"rare" category for all mechanical banks.
The entire Spring-Jawed series is composed of a zinc-lead alloy. The
low melting point of these metals made it an ideal medium for the
slush-metal casting process. This method of production entailed filling a
multi-sectioned, hollow mold with a molten solution of the alloy. As the
liquefied metal cooled and solidified around the inside walls of the mold,
the remaining hot solution was quickly expelled. Once fully cooled, the
mold was separated, revealing a perfectly detailed, hollow positive image.
Needless to say, extreme caution should be exercised when handling
any zinc-lead alloy bank. The eggshell-thin casting and fragile nature of
the metal makes it susceptible to breakage and may very well account for
the rarity of the Spring-Jawed series.
Operation of the "Spring-Jawed Bulldog" is uncomplex. A coin is
inserted through its mouth, activating a thin, internal steel leaf spring
attached to the dog's lower jaw. This creates a wiggling action, giving
the illusion of the pup chewing the ingested money. The deposits are
removed by first undoing a small, heart-shaped "trick lock" beneath its
jaw and then opening its hinged head.
There are no casting of color variants of the "Spring-Jawed Bulldog."
The colors of the bank (Figure I) are as follows: the dog is painted a
milk-chocolate brown, with dark brown and gray highlights. It has white
eyes with brown irises and black pupils. Its mouth is pink, and it has
white teeth with a red tongue. The collar around its neck is tan, and the
"trick lock" which is suspended from its neck is of unpainted brass.
Unfortunately, very little is known about the manufacturer or dates of
production of these scarce banks. Had it not been for the word, "GERMANY,"
printed upon their bases, the country of origin would also have been an
It may be assumed, perhaps, that lack of pertinent data relating to
the Spring-Jawed series was the result of a practice common to
nineteenth-century German patent law. During this period non-essential or
insignificant products were given the designation, "Reichsgebrachsmuster."
It was, in effect, a registered design rather than a true patent. It was
also the unfortunate practice to routinely destroy these registration
documents after only fifteen years. This created a void for future
mechanical bank collectors and researchers, with no information available
other than their country of origin.
To conclude, one should not underestimate the "Spring-Jawed Bulldog"
because of its small size and simplistic action. The slush-metal molded
process allows for extremely well-detailed casting. Combined with highly
imaginative and skillfully applied coloration, this rare gem is an
attractive addition to any mechanical bank collection.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the Spring-Jawed banks have been
reproduced. However, I am including a contour drawing of the "Bulldog,"
Figure II, to aid the collector in determining size and scale.
Any further information which would shed light upon this, or other,
banks in the Spring-Jawed series would be greatly appreciated and
presented in future articles.