by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 2001
Fantasy, deception, and intrigue greet those who
dare gaze through the magic looking glass! Recorded history dating to the
fourteenth century attests to the magician's use of mirrored or plain
glass to effect visions and multiple image illusions. One of the most
popular carnival attractions of today is the infamous "House of Mirrors."
In it, we are able to marvel, or perhaps recoil, at the appearance of ones
distorted self, as reflected through the multifarious glass.
One gentleman of the nineteenth century was
apparently captivated by the concept of illusory mirrors. Mr. David R.
Goudie of London, Ontario, Canada invented a clever contraption that he
designated as a "multiplying money-box" (Figure 1). On August 14, 1883, he
was granted U.S. Patent Number
282,978 for his invention. That date was,
ultimately, cast by the manufacturer into the base plate underneath the
bank, i.e. "PAT'D AUG 14, 1883."
Mr. Goudie assigned his creation to the prestigious J. and E. Stevens
Foundry of Cromwell, Connecticut. Stevens, in turn, produced what is
considered by many to be a masterpiece of cast iron architectural whimsy,
i.e. the "Multiplying Bank" (Figure 2).
A wholesale toy catalog advertisement, circa 1885, can be seen in
Figure 3. In its ad, the Biddle Hardware Company of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania offered the "Multiplying Bank" at a cost of $10.50 per dozen,
and the following instruction: "Place a coin in the Bank and it is
multiplied by the reflection in the mirror until it looks like a
half-dozen coins." Deposits are recovered by undoing the patented, round,
Stevens-type coin retainer underneath the base.
Sadly, many collectors have denied this fine coin collection device
its rightful status as a true mechanical. Their logic has been based upon
the lack of mechanical action necessary to deposit the coins and/or the
absence of motion that generally ensues following the deposition of a
coin. However, the appearance of "Multiplying Bank" in countless
mechanical bank collections worldwide acknowledges its appeal and
worthiness to the category.
Interestingly, there are two other mechanical banks that utilize
mirrors in order to achieve the desired objective. These are the "Smyth
X-Ray Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World,
September 1997), and the
extremely rare "Presto Bank," penny changes to a quarter (Antique Toy
World, March 1993). In contrast to the "Multiplying Bank," both are
readily accepted as bona fide mechanicals since they satisfy the
aforementioned characteristics regarded as necessary for the designation.
I am not aware of any casting variations of the "Multiplying Bank."
There are, however, several color combinations. In addition to the red,
white and blue coloration (Figure 2), I have seen examples painted various
shades of green, tan, and brown.
The "Multiplying Bank" is not considered a rarity. Nevertheless,
discovering one in complete, unbroken and superb paint condition could
prove quite a challenge even to the resourceful collector. To date, the
bank has not been reproduced. Figure 4 represents a base diagram of an
original example. If a duplicate were manufactured, it would, in
comparison, be approximately one-quarter inch smaller O.D. than indicated.
Addendum: Please refer to my article Fortune-Horse Race
"Savings Bank" in the
April 2001 issue of Antique Toy World. In it, I
stated the bank featured and pictured represented the only one known to
exist. Since that writing, I have been made aware of two other examples of
Fortune-Horse Race "Savings Bank". A photograph of one of these is shown
in Figure 5.