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Tabby Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1998

     Beasts stalking their prey....Animals engaged in the struggle for survival....The life-and death challenges staged by Nature....These have always fascinated both adults and children alike.
     Appeal of the subject matter has been evidenced by the innumerable products created for the public. Toy and mechanical bank manufacturers of the 19th century were cognizant of the marketing potential and featured such depictions of members of the animal kingdom in many of their wares.
     Examples include the following: "Lion and Monkeys" Bank, a product of the Kyser and Rex Company, portrays an adult monkey and its offspring valiantly fending off the aggressive onslaught of a marauding lion. Of the two reptilian gladiators represented in the tin mechanical "Snake and Frog in Pond," which will emerge victorious? Two mechanicals produced by Charles A. Bailey were "Baby Elephant Unlocks at X O'Clock" and "Springing Cat." The former represents a baby elephant in the act of rescuing a native child from the gaping jaws of a toothy crocodile. The latter portrays a tiger-striped orange cat positioned to pounce upon the unsuspecting mouse.
     Our subject this month, i.e., "Tabby Bank" (Figure 1) reflects behavior similar to that of the aforementioned "Springing Cat." We observe the malevolent "Tabby" perched atop a large egg, patiently and, undoubtedly, awaiting the hatching and emergence of its hapless inhabitant.
     Unfortunately, due to lack of historical documentation, the inventor and/or manufacturer of this mechanical remains unknown. However, an advertisement appearing in a Selchow and Richter toy jobber's catalog, circa 1878 (Figure 2) sheds a little light upon an otherwise dim background. The ad introduced "Tabby Bank" as a "NEW" addition to the company's line of toys.
     Action of this attractive and diminutive mechanical is aptly conveyed in the above-mentioned ad: "Size 4 and one-half inches high, 4 wide, 3 deep. This bank represents a 'Tabby' patiently waiting for the appearance of a young chick from an egg. When the coin is dropped in the slot in the cat's back, the chick moves its head. Attractively painted and packed six in a box. PRICE, 1.24 PER DOZEN."
     Today's collector has discovered that the "Tabby Bank" is in scarce supply. One explanation may be that, while most adults found the harsh realities of Nature fascinating, they were reluctant to expose these seemingly unkind and oftentimes cruel aspects to their young children. Ergo, there was not a great demand by parents to purchase this mechanical, and few were produced.
     I am not aware of any casting variations of "Tabby." However, there are three color renditions, and these pertain solely to the bank's flanged base. It may be painted either blue, red, or yellow.
     The "Tabby Bank" has been reproduced. Figure 3 is a base diagram of an original example. The recast version is approximately one-sixteenth inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
     Acknowledgment: The mechanical bank illustrated in Figure 1 is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.  
(from May, 1998) Knowledgeable collector, Mr. Frank Kidd, has advised one of another color variant of the "Tabby Bank," which was not mentioned in my February, 1998 article in Antique Toy World. This addition is painted an overall brown Japan with a gold chick.

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