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Guessing Bank, Woman’s Figure
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – May, 2007

     Seductive and audacious may aptly describe the pose of the woman seen in Figure 1. Referred to as "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure", this very unique mechanical combines the image of a saloon dance hall girl with a clever game of chance.
     Created during the latter portion of the nineteenth century, "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure" depicts one of the saloon girls of the "Wild West". These ladies were often recruited from farms or mills. They were lured by the prospect of high wages, easy work and fine clothing. Most were simply unable to earn a living in a time that offered few legitimate opportunities for women. The "saloon girls" were attired in brightly colored, scandalously short ruffled skirts, topped with revealing low-cut bodices. Their arms and shoulders often were bare. They wore high kid-leather boots adorned with bright buttons and tassels. These women would brighten the evenings of lonely farm hands and mine workers of western towns whilst encouraging purchase of drinks, gambling and participation in various games of chance.
     The design of "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure" (Figure 1) was that of a game of chance, featuring the image of the aforementioned saloon girl. It offered the gambler an opportunity to quintuple his pocket change, as stated upon its facade, i.e. "PAYS FIVE FOR ONE, IF YOU CALL THE NUMBER".
     Although no information pertaining to "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure" has surfaced, another strikingly similar mechanical, referred to as "Guessing Bank", is thought to provide relevant information. "Guessing Bank" (Figure 2) was designed by Edward J. McLoughlin of New York City and patented on May 22, 1877. The patent papers (Figure 3) indicate it as "a game of chance" and features the figure of a seated portly gentleman, with no reference to a provocatively garbed woman. Possibly, this may indicate Mr. McLoughlin believed the humorous male image would appeal to a larger, more conservative audience. Evidence appears to suggest that the inventor designed an alternative mechanical, replacing the gentleman's figure with that of a seductive female, possibly for usage in saloons as a counter top game of chance.
     "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure" is composed of a copper coated, spelter-type alloy. Its box-shaped, money drawer is of cast iron. Both "Guessing" banks (Figures 1 and 2) display identical wordage on their facades: 'GUESSING BANK, PAYS FIVE FOR ONE, IF YOU CALL THE NUMBER'. In addition, both operate identically: a coin is placed into the provided slot atop the bank. As it descends, it strikes an internal "winged wheel". This causes the "index pointer on the front of the bank to rotate". As the pointer revolves it engages small pins positioned around the dial. Ultimately, these pins will stop the pointer at a particular number. If the operator of the bank has "called the correct number" prior to coin insertion, he is entitled to receive five times the amount deposited. Coin removal is achieved by unlocking a small padlock at the rear of the cast iron base. This releases an internal rod, which allows the front money drawer to be opened.
     "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure" is extremely rare. Only one example is known to exist, this residing in the Kidd Toy Museum located in Portland, Oregon.
     To my knowledge, there have been no attempts to reproduce "Guessing Bank, Woman's Figure". Nonetheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure 4) of the example seen in Figure 1 to indicate size and scale. If a recast was attempted, it would appear approximately one-quarter inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
     Acknowledgement: the superb example "Guessing Bank", Figure 2, is in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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