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The Chronometer Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – May, 1994

      A temporary departure from the topic of mechanical banks brings us to another type of "coin keeper," namely the registering bank. An example, and the focus of discussion this month, is the "Chronometer Bank," seen in Figure I. Personifying the definition of a registering bank, its sole function is to record an amount of money deposited, either in a small window or other appropriate area. This differs from a mechanical bank wherein a specific action is initiated either by depressing a lever in order to deposit a coin, or the coin itself causes a particular action to ensue.
     The question most likely to be uppermost in the reader's mind is: why feature a registering bank in an article normally devoted to mechanical banks? This can be answered by directing your attention to Figure II (i.e. "Time is Money Bank" — refer to A.T.W., April, 1994) Figure III ("Bowery Bank" - refer to A.T.W., March, 1994). The similarity in design, material, and appearance of "Bowery Bank" and "Chronometer Bank" is apparent, but the resemblance between "Chronometer Bank" and "Time is Money" is remarkable. Assumedly, all three banks were designed and manufactured by the same individuals. Unfortunately, however, the three also have in common the lack of information pertinent to their backgrounds.
     Well-known mechanical bank historian, Mr. F. H. Griffith, is in possession of a rare Erich's Fashion Quarterly wholesale-retail toy jobber's catalog, circa Winter 1876, in which there is an illustration of the "Chronometer Bank." Accompanying the engraving is a caption reading: "This Toy Money Bank has a clockwork arrangement by which every penny deposited registers itself so that a child can always know just how much money the bank contains."
     "What the bank book and the clerk are to the large depositor, this automatic registering device is to the child, with the additional charm of a little mystery about the way it is done. Price, 75 cents. By mail, 15 cents extra."
     The striking similarity of design and subject matter between "Time is Money" and "Chronometer" mentioned earlier, may be seen in a comparison of their photographs (refer to Figures I and II). Each of their faces exhibits a circular disk, upon which is an effigy of a winged and bearded Father Time. He is cranking the reverse side of an Indian Head Penny. Below this coin a "Shield of Liberty" emerges from the top of an hourglass. However, on the "Chronometer Bank," to the left of the penny and shield are two small rectangular windows which display the total amount of money deposited. The top window records single penny increments while the lower window indicates deposits in ten cent increments.
     Previously mentioned was the lack of action shared by registering banks pursuant to the insertion of a coin. The "Chronometer" typifies this description. Operation of the bank is simple and precise. An Indian Head or Lincoln bust-type penny (the only types of coins which allow for proper operation of the banks in Figures II and 111, as well) is inserted into the slot located on top of the bank directly behind the finial. The weight of the penny causes the total amount of deposits to appear in one of the two windows. Accumulated coins are removed by unscrewing both halves of the bank.
     I am aware of two casting and color variations of the "Chronometer Bank." These pertain to the small deposit recording windows and the rectangular area upon which the words, "CHRONOMETER BANK" appear. The windows are either rectangular (refer to Figure I) or circular in shape. The rectangular area incorporating the bank's name is painted dark green or reddish-brown, and the lower border at the base of the bank can be either gold or red.
     Colors of the example in Figure I are as follows: the entire bank is coated with a dark brown japan varnish. The Father Time disk is painted silver. The panels on either side of the disk are dark green with flourishes and finial high­lighted in gold. The rectangular area beneath the disk is painted reddish-brown, with the raised letters, "CHRONOMETER BANK" rendered in gold. Finally, the raised border at the bank's base is bright red.
     The "Chronometer Bank" is extremely scarce. The collector in possession of this bank, as well as "Bowery" and "Time is money" is indeed fortunate.
     To my knowledge, the "Chronometer Bank" has not been reproduced. Nevertheless, Figure IV is a base diagram of an original example. If a recast were attempted, the result would appear approximately 1/8" shorter along the base than indicated.
     The fine examples shown in Figures I, II, and III are from the superb collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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