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The Roller Skating Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 1998

     During the later portion of the 19th century, no single entity demonstrated life and mores as graphically as the mechanical bank. Reflections of attitudes and lifestyles were portrayed through topics such as recreation, sports, clothing, children's games, racial issues, immigration, thrift, politics, labor, inventions, and so forth.
     Designers of mechanical banks were always eager to capitalize upon newsworthy events as well as the latest popular craze. Just such an example was the great roller-skating revival of the 1880s. Inspired by the invention of the ball-bearing roller skate, colossal roller rinks were erected in most major cities in the United States (Figure 1). Many of these rinks featured live music played by popular bands of the day. Roller skating became the favorite national pastime, transcending all classes of society. The mechanical bank created to celebrate this renaissance was the "Roller Skating Bank," seen in Figure 2.
     To operate this mechanical, both the male and female skaters are set into position at the front end of the curved tracks. A coin is then placed within the slot in the roof atop the bank. The large button at the center front of the rink is depressed, whereupon both skaters begin to race along the two arched tracks toward the figure holding the wreath. As the coin drops into the bank, the man with wreath in hand pivots to present it to the winner of the competition, i.e., the female skater.
     Interestingly, two additional figures are featured within the bank. They are, however, sans skates, and both lie on the floor of the rink. Perhaps these were careless onlookers who accidentally collided with our two competitors as they sped toward the finish line.
     Close examination of the "Roller Skating Bank" (Figure 2) reveals the genius, imagination, and wit its creator was certain to possess. Unfortunately, to date this information remains unknown. No patent data or catalog advertisements have come forth which would identify designer and/or manufacturer. However, similarities in design have led bank historians and collectors to assume it was a creation of the Kyser and Rex Company of Frankford, Pa. For example, the cloverleaf design perforated into the base plate of the "Roller Skating Bank" is identical to the back plate of the "Confectionary Bank" and the base plate of the "MerryGo-Round Bank," each a well-documented product of Kyser and Rex Company. Another is that the square key-lock coin retainer utilized by the "Roller Skating Bank" bears a remarkable likeness to those of the "Mikado Bank," the "Mammy and Baby" Bank, the "Butting Buffalo Bank," and the "Lion and Monkeys" Bank, all products of Kyser and Rex. A most significant similarity is the bas-relief scene at the rear of the "Roller Skating Bank." This bears a striking resemblance to the roller skating scene portrayed on the Kyser and Rex "Roller Safe" still bank (Figure 3).
     The "Roller Skating Bank" is extremely rare. A collector would be considered quite fortunate indeed to add a fine, all-original, and complete example to her or his collection.
     To the best of my knowledge, this mechanical has not been reproduced, Nevertheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure 4) of an original bank to aid the collector in determining size and scale. If the "Roller Skating Bank" were to be recast, it would appear approximately one-quarter inch shorter than indicated.
     ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The excellent, all-original "Roller Skating Bank" shown in Figure 2 is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.
     ADDENDUM: Please refer to my article "Butting Buffalo Bank," Part 2 in the January 1998 issue of Antique Toy World. I erroneously omitted mention that this was an adjunct to my "Butting Buffalo Bank" article in the September 1988 issue of Antique Toy World.

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