The Merry-Go-Round Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – October, 1991
Few mechanical banks express the simplicity and
carefree joys of childhood. Counted amongst these are Girl Shipping Rope
bank, manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company, the Leap Frog bank, a
product of Shepard Hardware, and Kyser and Rex's Roller Skating bank.
However, none is able to do so with the diversity of form, multicoloration,
intricacy, or variety of subjects as the Merry-Go-Round bank (Figure I),
subject of this article. Sentiments of innocence and serenity are
portrayed in the faces of the children as they ride, endlessly in
circles, upon the creatures of their fantasies.
To date, documentation pertaining to the inventor and/or patent of
this mechanical is sparse. And, had it not been for the discovery,
several years ago, of an early Alfred C. Rex catalog, circa 1889, which
illustrated and offered the Merry-Go-Round bank for sale, the manufacturer
of this cast iron masterpiece might still be an enigma. Invention of the
Merry-Go-Round is attributed to Rudolph M. Hunter of Philadelphia, PA.
This is based upon the similarities between several design aspects of Kyser and Rex's Confectionary bank, an acknowledged Rudolph M. Hunter
design and the Merry-Go-Round bank.
Scrutiny of all twenty-four mechanical banks manufactured by Louis
Kyser and Alfred C. Rex (including Merry-Go-Round) reveals design,
casting, and painted decoration rivaled only by J. and E. Stevens Company
and Shepard Hardware. Knowledgeable bank collectors and antique toy
historians alike regard Kyser and Rex with the same high degree of esteem
as these other two mechanical bank-producing giants of the nineteenth
To operate the Merry-Go-Round bank, a coin is first placed within the
slot adjacent to the coin attendant. As the crank handle in the side of
the base is turned, bell chimes begin to sound and the figures revolve
around the platform. The attendant, with whip-like object in hand, moves
back and forth, as if to acknowledge each deposited fare. At the first
revolution of the crank, the coin falls through the slot into the bank.
These deposits are retrieved by opening a small, square, key lock
underneath the base plate. Incidentally, the words, "PAID APLD FOR" are
inscribed into this base plate, as well as the number "124", which is cast
into the coin retainer.
There are no obvious external casting variations of the
Merry-Go-Round bank, but there are two color variants. These are confined
to the panels of the umbrella-shaped canopy. They may be painted red,
alternated with yellow, or as indicated in the bank pictured in Figure I,
alternate colors of red, white, blue, and white.
To complete the coloration of the bank illustrated in
this article, the finial atop the canopy, as well as the poles to which
the animals are attached, are painted gold. The faces and hands of the
children and attendant are a pink-flesh color. Their eyes, eyebrows, and
hair are black, and their mouths are red. The lone exception is the little
girl perched atop the swan. She has hair that has been painted orange. Her
dress is blue and her hat is red. The swan she sits upon is white with
orange eyes and a red mouth. The figure of the camel is brown, and its
rider sports a red outfit and blue hat. The pony is painted black, and its
rider wears a blue frock and red hat. The ostrich is painted metallic
copper, and the girl nestled upon its back has a red dress and a blue hat.
The elephant is gray; its rider wears a blue suit and yellow hat. The
attendant sports a blue jacket, yellow hat and pants, and high, black
boots. The base is bright red, banded with three gold stripes. The top
platform is painted tan and the crank handle is gold.
The Merry-Go-Round bank is extremely rare and desirable. An 1888
Selchow and Richter toy jobber's catalog offered it at $8.50 per dozen.
Any readers wish to place an order?!! Most often, when a Merry-Go-Round
bank is located, the finial atop the canopy and/or the crank handle may be
missing, or the attendant is broken off. With this bank, as well as with
any antique mechanical, a missing, recast, or damaged part should be taken
into consideration when making a monetary evaluation.
To the best of my knowledge, the Merry-Go-Round bank has not been
reproduced. Nevertheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure II) to
aid the collector in determining size and scale. If the bank were to be
recast, it would appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter along the
base than indicated. This would be due to iron shrinkage as it cooled in