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The Panorama Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 1995

      The design and manufacture of the first cast-iron mechanical bank (Figure I) unknowingly effectuated the birth of a major, worldwide industry. Mr. John D. Hall, of Watertown, Mass., invented and patented (December 21, 1869) his "Hall's Excelsior," a mechanical bank in the form of a building (refer to Antique Toy World, February 1984). His ingenious creation was the inspiration for eventual production by other talented individuals of well over 400 varied mechanical banks, spanning a period of approximately 40 years.
     Although other subjects have enjoyed equal success and popularity, the group comprised of buildings has been the most prolific in both the mechanical and still bank families. Classics amongst the mechanicals include: "Dog on Turntable," "Mosque," "Hall's Lilliput," "Cupola Bank," "Novelty Bank," "New Bank," "National Bank," "Home Bank," "U.S. Bank," "Zoo Bank," and the subject of this article, the "Panorama Bank" (Figure II).
     On March 7, 1876, James D. Butler, of Lancaster, Mass., received patent number 174,410 for the invention of a most unique "building-style" mechanical bank, namely his "Panorama Bank" (Figure III). Subsequently, Butler assigned the patent rights to Elisha G. Selchow and John H. Righter, two entrepreneurs who owned and operated a wholesale game and home- amusement company located in New York City (see Figure IV). Selchow and Righter ultimately contracted the J. and E. Stevens Foundry, of Cromwell, Conn., to manufacture Mr. Butler's invention.
     Interestingly, the original patent papers (Figure III) indicated a device designed to exhibit only three different pictures. It is likely that either Selchow and Righter or J. and E. Stevens modified the design, enabling the final production bank to display six different images, rather than three.
     To operate the "Panorama Bank," a coin is first pushed through the slot located at the center of the backside of the roof. This engages an internal lever which revolves a wooden, paper-covered cylinder, resulting in the viewing of precisely one picture at a time. Additional coins must be utilized to expose each image. Deposits are retrieved by opening the square sliding coin retainer underneath its base.
     The revolving cylinder features six different color lithographed pictures of children engaged in various activities. It includes: a boy standing on a bridge observing swans; a girl playing with a kitten; two boys in a rowboat; two children, one feeding a goat and the other fishing; three children feeding ducks; and, lastly, two girls reposing in a garden.
     I have recently been informed of the existence of a "Panorama Bank" with six totally different images from the aforementioned. However, since I have not personally viewed the bank, I am unable, at this time, to comment upon the credibility of the report.
     To my knowledge, there are no known casting variations of "Panorama Bank." However, there are several color variants. One is painted white with a blue roof and red trim. Another has a light green façade with a red roof and brown trim. A third, Figure II, has yellow walls, red window trim, blue lettering and a brown door. This variant also features yellow chimneys with blue trim, a blue base and brown and blue stairs.
     The "Panorama Bank" has not, to my knowledge, been reproduced. Nevertheless, Figure V is a base diagram of an original example. If a reproduction were manufactured, it would appear approximately one-quarter of an inch shorter along the base. O.D. than indicated.
     On a final note: Recently, architectural-style banks, both mechanical and still, have become increasingly popular and desirable. The "Panorama Bank" is a most attractive addition to such a collection.

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