Tin Clown and Dog
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 2004
Carnival and circus acts have always proven to be successful and
profitable themes for children's playthings. Late nineteenth and early
twentieth century mechanical bank manufacturers were certainly aware of
the charisma and popularity of these subjects.
Many mechanical banks reflecting various aspects of the circus were
produced in this country and abroad. Several specifically featured the
clown and dog act. The bank pictured in Figure 1 is a charming example of
one such mechanical whose motif depicts a clown and dog circus
In addition to our subject, "Tin Clown and Dog", a few notables
include: "Trick Dog Bank" produced by the Shepard Hardware Company
(Antique Toy World article,
November 1988); "Trick Dog Bank", the Hubley
Company (A.T.W., December 1992); "Trick Dog Bank" (solid base), the Hubley
Company (A.T.W. December 1992); and "Hoop-La Bank", John Harper and
Company (A.T.W. October 2001).
"Clown and Dog" is one of a series of three extremely rare tin plate
mechanicals manufactured during the early twentieth century by Saalheimer
and Strauss Tin Works. Located in Nurnberg, Germany, center of early tin
plate toy production, this company was considered one of the foremost
manufacturers of tin plate novelty items, toys, household goods, and
mechanical banks of the era.
Figure 2 represents a page from a Saalheimer and Strauss wholesale
toy catalog, circa 1920-1930. The discovery of this catalog provided
hitherto unavailable information pertaining to the manufacturer of "Clown
and Dog" as well as other tin mechanicals in the company's line.
As previously mentioned, our subject was one of a series of three
lithographed tin plate mechanical banks, all exhibiting a "round top"
configuration and similar internal mechanics. "Clown and Dog" has the
distinction of being the rarest of the series, followed by "Clever Dick
Bank" and then "Saluting Sailor Bank" (refer to Figure 2).
Action of "Clown and Dog" is quite amusing and ingenious. The
activating lever, in the form of the dog's tongue, is pulled downward,
lowering the clown's right arm. A coin is then placed within the clown's
right hand. Upon releasing the "tongue", the arm, with coin in hand,
swings upward causing the coin to be released. The coin, propelled by
inertia, travels up and around the bank's upper track and through the slot
in the clown's rear pants pocket. Its ultimate destination is a
rectangular coin receptacle in the back of the bank.
The mechanical's action is further enhanced by animation of the
clown's face when the right arm is lowered for coin activation (Figure 3).
The clown's forehead moves upward, exposing the eye and lowering his jaw.
The jester's facial expression changes to one of glee, as the coin speeds
along the track and into his pocket.
Deposits are recovered by opening the square, key-lock coin retainer
located underneath the base.
To my knowledge, neither "Clown and Dog" nor any mechanical bank in
this "round top" series has been reproduced. However, this does not
preclude the possibility of restoration in the form of a reproduced,
replacement segment of the bank. Needless to say, in such instances its
monetary value is compromised accordingly.
Despite its tin plate construction and diminutive size (Height 6-7/8
inches, Width 4-7/8 inches), "Clown and Dog" is a colorful, attractive
circus theme bank and a most desirable addition to a mechanical bank
Acknowledgement: The superb example "Clown and Dog" Bank (Figure 1)
is in the collection of Robert E. Weiss.