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
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
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
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.
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.