Saluting Sailor Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – May, 2008
Our subject, this article, is a rare and
attractive tin-plate mechanical bank. Known as "Saluting Sailor" (Figure
1), it reflects a theme that has fascinated boys and men alike.
Throughout history, youngsters have been entertained by various toys
and games that evoked images of raging seas and battles to be fought.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a plethora of
nautical and military-related objects were produced in this country and
abroad. Included were toy mechanical penny banks with such names as "Hold
the Fort Bank", "U.S. and Spain Bank", "Sailor Money Box", "Tommy Bank",
"Creedmoor Bank", and the aforementioned "Saluting Sailor" Bank (Figure
"Saluting Sailor" is one of a set of three rare lithographed
tin-plate mechanical banks. The other two members are "Clever Dick" and
"Clown and Dog". They were created by Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works
during the early twentieth century. Located in Nurnberg, Germany, then the
manufacturing center of early tin-plate merchandise, this company was
considered one of the foremost producers of tin-plate household goods,
novelty items and mechanical banks of the era.
Figure 2 represents a page from an early Saalheimer and Strauss
wholesale toy catalog, circa 1928-1936, wherein the aforementioned trio is
pictured. All three are recognized as having a unique, round top
configuration, as well as comparable construction materials.
The discovery of this catalog provided invaluable information
pertaining not only to the manufacture of "Saluting Sailor" but also to
other tin-plate mechanicals in the company's line. In addition, the word
"GERMANY' imprinted upon the bank further attests to its country of
Action of "Saluting Sailor" differs significantly from its brethren.
Upon activation, both "Clown and Dog" and "Clever Dick" flip a coin upward
and around an external arched track and into the bank. "Saluting Sailor",
however, raises its right arm and hand in a saluting gesture,
simultaneously lowering its left elbow in order to expose the coin slot.
Upon deposition of a coin into said slot, the lever is released and the
seaman's arms return to the position seen in Figure 1. Wordage imprinted
upon the lower facade of the bank describes its action quite succinctly:
"What a funny money-box, with no slot behind it? Press the lever — Jack
salutes, now, perhaps you'll find it.". Deposits are retrieved by opening
a square, key lock, coin retainer located underneath the base.
Collectors and historians have long debated whether the subject
depicted by "Saluting Sailor" Bank represents a peacetime mariner or one
involved in a war effort. These conflicting suppositions are based solely
upon the environment of the "sailor".
Is the round hatch located behind the subject an access or entry to
ship's quarters? Or, is it the round port to a forward torpedo tube of a
German U-Boat? Figures 3 and 4 may possibly serve to support or refute
either point of view, and to provide a logical answer. Figure 3 is a World
War I photograph, circa 1915, of a forward torpedo tube of a German U-Boat
showing the hand wheel used to set gyro angles on loaded torpedoes (note a
similar hand wheel behind the sailor's right hand, as seen in Figure 1).
Figure 4 is a World War I photograph of a German U-Boat crewmember in
uniform, circa 1915.
If one was to conclude, based upon the preceding exhibits, that the
bank depicts a wartime scenario, one must also take into account the
object pictured in Figure 1 was not created during wartime. In fact,
manufacture of "Saluting Sailor", as documented by the Saalheimer and
Strauss catalog (Figure 2), would have been sometime between 1920 and
1936. This would have been post World War I and pre World War II. It
appears that the bank's manufacturer may possibly have intended the
vessel, or submarine, to represent an intriguing and imaginative feat of
under water engineering rather than a warship.
To the best of my knowledge, no mechanical manufactured by Saalheimer
and Strauss has been reproduced. However, this does not preclude the
prospect of restoration in the form of replaced components of the bank. In
such instances, its monetary value is compromised accordingly.
To conclude, despite its tin plate construction and diminutive size
(i.e. Height: 6-3/4 inches; Width: 4-7/8 inches), the "Saluting Sailor" is
a most colorful and desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgement: The superb example of "Saluting Sailor" Bank (Figure
1) is in the collection of Bob Weiss.