Frog on Arched Track
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1997
It is no wonder that frogs and toads have been
popular subjects for children's playthings. Perhaps their very appearance
evokes visions or memories of pleasant summers spent swimming and fishing
at the local pond.
Astute 19th-century mechanical bank manufacturers
considered these amphibians worthy subjects for even their wares. Notable
examples include: "Two Frogs" bank, "Frog on Round Base," "Professor Pug
Frog's Great Bicycle Feat," "Chief Big Moon," "Goat, Frog and Old Man,"
"Initiating Bank, First Degree," "Snake and Frog in Pond," "Flip the
Frog," "Toad on Stump," "Toad in Den" and "Frog on Arched Track" (Figure
I). Obviously, there is not a more appropriate creature designed by nature
to gobble huge amounts of pennies into a cavernous mouth.
On December 5, 1871, James Fallows, of Philadelphia, Pa., was granted
121,502 (Figure II) for his invention of "Frog on Arched
Track." Interestingly, the patent identifies the invention as an
"Improvement in Toy Toads." However, historically, collectors had
designated this toy to be a mechanical bank and referred to its subject as
a "frog." At the time that James Fallows was awarded the patent for his
"Toy-Toad," he was a partner in the firm of Francis, Field and Francis, a
prestigious toy manufacturer of the era, in Philadelphia. The precise date
of production is unknown due to the lack of pertinent information.
However, my contention is that "Frog on Arched Track" was manufactured by
that firm closely on the heels of obtainment of patent in 1871.
Subsequent to Mr. Fallows's departure from Francis, Field and
Francis, he began, in November of 1874, the operation of his own toy
manufacturing business located at 51-53 North Third Street, also in
Philadelphia. Continuing the philosophy of his former employer, he
produced high-quality, beautifully designed, painted tin toys. James
Fallows invented and manufactured only one other toy which utilized a coin
in its action, namely "Toad in Den." Again, contrary to its patent papers
(Figure III), his creation had been, and is, considered by knowledgeable
collectors to be a mechanical bank.
"Frog on Arched Track" is composed, almost entirely, of tinplate, the
exception being the frog, which is sheet brass. There are no structural
variations of the bank, and the few external design variances pertain
solely to the stenciling.
Action of "Frog on Arched Track" is incomplex and
somewhat surprising. Initially, the hinged lid of the cylindrical cup is
lifted and the frog is pushed downward into it. The frog remains hidden in
place by manually closing the flap. A coin is positioned into the elevated
coin holder. The lid of the cup is then raised, and the frog emerges and
travels along the track. It grabs the coin in its mouth and retreats; the
money passes through the body and drops into the open cup. The action of
the frog is accomplished entirely by the utilization of an internal
counterbalance mechanism (refer to the patent drawing in Figure II). Coins
are removed by opening the lid of the cup.
The colors of the mechanical pictured in Figure I are as follows: the
toad is painted a dark green, while the remainder of the bank is bright
red. All of the stenciling (i.e., both sides of the bank and the
cylindrical cup), as well as the words, "Dec. 5th 1871," appearing on the
cup, are painted gold.
"Frog on Arched Track" is extremely rare, with less than a handful
known to be in collections. Figure IV represents a base diagram of an
original example to enable the determination of size and scale.
Acknowledgement: The superb example of the "Frog on Arched Track"
(Figure I) resides comfortably in the collection of Steve and Marilyn
Correction: Please note: Due to editorial errors in the
"Omissions" section which followed the "Trick Pony Bank" article, Antique
Toy World, November 1996, the paragraphs which NOW follow replace that
Omissions: (1) Operating instructions for the "Mason Bank"
(refer to Antique Toy World,
August 1984) were erroneously omitted: A coin
is placed into the hod and the lever is then pressed. Simultaneously, the
hod tilts forward, the money falls through an opened trap door section
behind the brick wall, and the mason raised his trowel and brick. Deposits
are retrieved by removing the rectangular, key-lock coin retainer
underneath the base.
(2) Descriptive colors of the "Spring Jawed Rabbit" (Antique Toy
World, September 1996) were erroneously omitted: The rabbit is an overall
dark reddish brown, with tan and white highlights. The tips of its ears
and its nose are black, and it has light tan eyes with black pupils. The
inside of its mouth is pink, and it has two white teeth.