Octagonal Fort Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – February,
No single category of items manufactured
within the United States has portrayed this country's history as
completely and vividly as the mechanical bank. Subject matter has been
quite diverse, with manufacturers utilizing timely, provoking issues such
as politics, race, immigration, architecture, etc.
A topic that proved to be very lucrative was combat, as evidenced by
the production of an abundant amount of war-associated examples intended
for the youthful segment of the market. Clever entrepreneurs combined the
theme of armed conflict with the then popular philosophy of "a penny saved
is a penny earned." The result was the production of such notables as
"Artillery Bank" (Antique Toy World,
February 1988), "Hold the Fort" Bank
(Antique Toy World, February 1993), "U.S. and Spain" Bank (Antique Toy
World, February 1994), the "Target Bank," and "Octagonal Fort Bank"
(Figure 1), subject of this month's article.
This, as well as most other war-related mechanicals, was produced to
commemorate particular historical events. It is assumed that "Octagonal
Fort Bank" was a depiction of the battle between Confederate and Union
forces which took place at Fort Sumpter. This conflict marked the outset
of the Civil War. Seen in Figure 2 is a photograph dated April 14, 1861,
and is entitled "Confederate Flag Flying Over Fort Sumpter, South
Unfortunately, there is a total lack of factual information
pertaining to the "Octagonal Fort Bank." Sometime around 1954, noted
mechanical bank historian, Mr. F. H. Griffith offered his speculations
relating to its significance and date of manufacture: "During the 1880s
toy salesman, Major Edward Brueninghausen, sold banks and toys he had
especially manufactured for his trade. He was a Civil War veteran and had
entered the toy business around 1875. It's very possible that the
Octagonal Fort was manufactured for and sold by him. And in any event,
until such time that refutable evidence might turn up it's logical that
the bank represents Fort Sumpter, was made in the period of 1880, and sold
by Brueninghausen." Interestingly, to date, no other meaningful
information has surfaced relating to "Octagonal Fort Bank." Ergo, Mr.
Griffith's illuminating speculations some 44 years ago continue to be
accepted as entirely plausible.
The "Octagonal Fort Bank" is considered a rarity, and particularly so
in unbroken, fine paint condition. The poor surface appearance seen on
almost all examples is due to faulty paint application at the time of
manufacture. The bank was initially prime coated with a hard, glossy,
black lacquer. Succeeding colors used for decoration were not able to
adhere to the impervious black undercoat, resulting in excessive peeling
Operation of the bank is effective and relevant to the subject. A
coin is placed within the muzzle of the cannon. The lever underneath the
barrel atop the rear of the cannon is pushed downward, releasing the lever
which propels the coin into the fort. Deposits are retrieved by unscrewing
the base plate beneath the bank.
I am not aware of any existent reproduction of the "Octagonal Fort
Bank." Nonetheless, Figure 3 represents a base diagram of an original
example. If a recast were produced, it would appear one- quarter inch
shorter O.D. along the base than indicated.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: The fine "Octagonal Fort Bank" shown in Figure 1 is
in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.
CORRECTION: Refer to Antique Toy World,
December 1998 — The
correct title of the article should have been: "DARKEY WITH WATERMELON
BANK" (and not "Darkey with the Watermelon Bank").