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The World’s Banker
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – June, 2006

     Our featured subject, this article, reflects a most significant period in the history of world finance. "The World Banker" mechanical bank (Figure 1) represents John Bull, a national symbolic image of Great Britain.
     The idea for this mechanical's creation was based upon the political and financial climate of the era. During the 1930's-1940's, the United States and Great Britain formed an organization to provide substantial loans to foreign governments attempting to rebuild their infrastructures. Transfers of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars and British pounds took place daily. Legally binding agreements stipulated monies be designated for "productive purposes and for specific projects that would produce the foreign exchange needed for repayment". This bilateral lending organization eventually evolved into the "World Bank", a multinational coalition which had its inception in 1944.
    The cartoon, circa 1930, seen in Figure 2, is a portrayal of the aforementioned John Bull. He is represented as a prominent financier doling out funds directed to international as well as national borrowers. Thus was born the idea for timely creation and production of such mechanical banks as the topic of this discussion, "The World's Banker" mechanical bank (Figure 1).
     John Bull is depicted as a portly yet stately figure. He is positioned behind a podium upon which revolves a globe of the world. Action of the bank demonstrates idealistically the prompt repayment of loans by foreign nations to British banks. A coin is placed within the provided slot in the globe. The top of John Bull's hat is then forcibly pushed downward, causing the globe to revolve. Simultaneously, the coin rolls from the globe onto a small platform and into a slot in John Bull's belly. Deposits are recovered by opening hinged, key lock, trap door type retainer located in the back of Mr. Bull's coat (Figure 3).
     To date, neither catalog nor patent information has surfaced that may provide information pertaining to this mechanical's manufacturer. However, the globe itself reveals pertinent clues as to its country of origin. Adjacent to the coin slot is the word "GERMANY". This was inconspicuously imprinted within the area designated as the "South Pacific Ocean". In addition, the bank's age can be ascertained by the geographic position of countries indicated and their configurations.
     "The World's Banker" is but one of several prominent mechanicals whose subject matter reflected national and/or international finance. Others, produced both within the United States and abroad and during the same period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, included the following: "John Bull's Money Box" (refer to Antique Toy World, January 2002); "Uncle Sam Bank" (A.T.W. April 1985); "National Bank"; "U.S. Bank" (A.T.W. June 1996); "United States Bank"; and "Atlas Bank" (A.T.W. March 1990).
     "The World's Banker" is constructed entirely of bright and colorful lithographed tinplate.
     To my knowledge, this mechanical has never been reproduced. Its dimensions are provided merely as an aid to collectors in determining size and scale: Height: 6-3/4 inches; Width: 3-1/2 inches; Depth: 4-3/4 inches.
     The "World's Banker" is extremely rare, attractive and a most desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example "The World's Banker", Figure 1, is in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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