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The Jonah Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 1994

      "God was displeased with Jonah for disobeying him, and caused so violent a storm to arise that the ship was in danger of being wrecked. Then the seamen drew lots to find out for whose wicked­ness the storm had come upon them. And the lot fell upon Jonah. So he told them all: And said they must take him and throw him into the sea. The sailors were unwilling to do this. So they rowed hard, in hopes of getting to land. But it was no use, so they had to throw Jonah over; and immediately the storm ceased.
     But Jonah was not drowned. God had prepared a great fish, that swallowed him up, and at the end of three days and three nights, swam to shore, And vomited him up unhurt."
        — The Old Testament


     Rare , distinguished, and unique are a few of the adjectives which best describe the mechanical bank portrayed in Figure II. The characteristic that differentiates it from all other banks ever produced is that it concludes a story introduced by another mechanical bank.
     Figure I, the "Jonah and the Whale Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World, July 1986) represents the beginning of Jonah's Biblical ordeal with God. Here we see a robed and bearded sailor casting Jonah into the cavernous mouth of a "large fish," portrayed as a whale. Figure II, the "Jonah Bank," depicts the conclusion of Jonah's ill-fated journey which took place in the belly of the whale.
     Unfortunately, little is known about either the origin or manufacturer of the "Jonah Bank" (Figure II). There has, however, been much speculation on the part of mechanical bank historians and collectors alike. The bank's colors, construction and design suggest the possibility of its having been a product of master bank designer Charles A. Bailey during his employment with the J. and E. Stevens Foundry of Cromwell, Conn.
     Figure III is an advertisement from a rare Ives, Blakeslee and Company Catalog, circa 1880s, wherein the "Jonah Bank" was offered for sale at the price of $9.00 per dozen. Ives, Blakeslee and Company had been a toy jobber and manufacturer based in Bridge­port, Conn. In attempting to resolve the question of who designed, produced and ultimately manufactured the "Jonah Bank," it would be reasonable to assume that Ives, Blakeslee might have presented the J. and E. Ste­vens Company with plans for their mechanical, also requesting additional refinements, and eventual manufacture.
     Operation of the "Jonah Bank" (Figure II) is initiated by pulling the round knob located beneath the whale's tail, thus setting the lever. A coin is then placed within the small boat atop the bank's right-hand side. Simultaneously, upon depression of the lever behind the whale's right-hand flipper, the boat shoots forward, depositing the coin, and whale's mouth opens, ejecting Jonah upon the beach. Coin removal is achieved by sliding the small coin retainer, underneath the perforated square base, to one side.
     There are no casting variants of the "Jonah Bank." However, there is one color deviation which applies solely to the front, rear and sides of the base. These may be painted either bright red or orange (one example known). The colors of the bank pictured in Figure II are as follows: the whale is an overall medium gray. It has white corneas, red pupils and red eyelids. Its lower lip is also painted red, and there are bright red markings on its flippers and tail. Jonah's face is pink flesh-colored with black eyes, eyelids and a red mouth. He sports a blue-black robe. The top of the base (representing the beach) is painted a light tan sand color, strewn with gray-colored sea life. The water and waves are blue-green. The small coin-carrier boat and activating knob beneath the whale's tail are bright red, as is the base, but with gold highlighting. Finally, the square coin box underneath the base, as well as the entire underside of the bank, are painted maroon.
     The "Jonah Bank" (Figure II) is an extremely interesting and attractive mechanical. Unfortunately, its rarity is the obstacle preventing most bank collectors from ever owning one.
     In attempting to ascertain reasons for its rarity, one need only to examine its construction: i.e., complicated with a multitude of intricate and extremely delicate cast parts. It undoubtedly was prone to malfunction and breakage, possibly at the factory or during transit to retailers (as were other rare banks of the period: i.e., "Girl Skipping Rope" bank — refer to Antique Toy World article dated December 1982).
     Aside from one contemporary aluminum replica, I am not aware of the existence of any reproductions. Nevertheless, Figure IV is a base diagram of an original "Jonah Bank." A reproduction, or recast, will appear approximately one quarter of an inch shorter along the base then indicated. This is due to the fact that cast iron shrinks approximately one-quarter inch to the foot during succeeding attempts at duplication.
     The superb, all-original example of the "Jonah Bank" (Figure II) is from the mechanical bank collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck of Fort Wayne, Ind.

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