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The Schoolmaster Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – July, 2004

     Prior to the advent of the child psychologist...Prior to the emergence of behavioral science studies... Prior to the development of profound child sensitivity training and techniques...was the simplistic and universal adage "spare the rod and spoil the child". Such was the belief and resultant implementation by parents and educators.
     This popular philosophy of obedience is exemplified by a unique toy mechanical bank. "The Schoolmaster Bank", subject of this article, is seen in Figure 1.
     The mechanical depicts a classroom chastisement in progress. An appropriately garbed European schoolmaster, switch in hand, is poised to inflict punishment upon an assumedly unruly student. In this instance, the lesson in morality is quite clear: punishment will be dealt swiftly and harshly to the child that ignores or defies the edict for proper schoolroom decorum.
     "The Schoolmaster Bank" (Figure 1) is but one of a series of extremely rare mechanicals believed to have been manufactured during the years 1900-1910 by the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg, Germany. Bing was renowned in the European community as a leading producer of items such as tinplate household specialties and toys that included trains, boats, automobiles and steam engines. Unfortunately, the company did not leave a paper trail for future historians of early German tinplate toys and mechanical banks. The lack of patent information pertaining to the "Schoolmaster Bank", as well as others in the group, is attributed to early twentieth century German government patent laws. It was mandated that "insignificant patents" (i.e. toys) were to be discarded after fifteen years of issuance.
     The discovery of a Gebruder Bing Wholesale Catalog (Figure 2) revealed the bank's country of origin as well as its manufacturer. Mechanical banks similar in design, construction and action to "The Schoolmaster Bank" were portrayed in the catalog. Although this mechanical was not pictured, its relationship to other members of its assumed family appears undeniable.
     The description and prices of the Bing series of mechanical banks, as indicated in the catalog (Figure 2), are as follows: "Banks — Made of tin, nicely decorated. With lock and moving figures. Supplied in 24 assorted subjects. Price per piece: Mark -.57.".
     "The Schoolmaster Bank" was constructed almost entirely of tinplate, as was all others in the series. The articulated figure of the schoolmaster and the figure of his student are composed of a zinc-lead alloy. Both figures were artfully painted. The entire executed upon a thin sheet of polychrome, "photolithographic" paper, affixed to the banks tinplate façade.
     "The Schoolmaster Bank" operates by first inserting a coin through the slot in back of the bank. Simultaneously, the schoolmaster's poised right arm, switch in hand, raises and descends as if to admonish the "disobedient" child (Figure 3). Deposits are recovered by opening the key lock, trap door type, coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank.
     Mere survival of this and a scant few others in the Bing series accounts for their rarity. With fragile tinplate construction, delicate paper clad and painted surfaces, decades of subjection to moisture, temperature changes and youthful ownership, it is surprising that any complete examples have survived.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproduced mechanicals in the Bing series. However, there is the possibility of reproduction parts. As with any fine, rare, and delicate antique, limited professional restoration may be considered acceptable without significantly devaluing the object.
     "The Schoolmaster Bank" is small in size: Height: 4 inches; Width: 3-3/8 inches; Depth: 2-5/16 inches. However, this does not diminish its desirability. It is an extremely attractive and welcome addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgements: This fine example of "The Schoolmaster Bank", Figure 1, is from the collection of the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce Kidd, Proprietors.
     Copies of the Bing catalog pages, Figure 2, were provided by fellow collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg, Germany.

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