Guessing Bank, Woman’s
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
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.
Acknowledgement: the superb example "Guessing Bank", Figure 2, is in
the collection of Bob Weiss.