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Farmer Feeding Cow Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine October, 2008

     Charming and simplistic are the images of farm life. Children have delighted in songs, stories and playthings reflecting its various aspects.
     The appeal and popularity of manufactured items representing farm-related subjects were well recognized. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, several mechanical banks were produced, both here and abroad, that depicted scenarios relating to farm life. Some examples displayed mischievous behavior and were of a humorous nature. These included the chicken-thieving "Uncle Remus Bank", the two youths caught in the act as seen in "Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank", and the frustrated lad thrust off of his stool in "Milking Cow Bank". Others represented animals simplistically. These included the "Rooster Bank", "Mule Entering Barn Bank", "Hen and Chick Bank", and the subject of this article, "Farmer Feeding Cow Bank" (Figure 1).
     "Farmer Feeding Cow Bank" pictures a farmer offering his docile bovine a handful of grass, which is accepted and acknowledged by a nod of its head. This mechanical bank is but one of a series of extremely rare and desirable mechanicals believed to have been produced sometime during the years 1890 through 1910. Its manufacturer is thought to be the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg, Germany. Bing was renowned for its line of tinplate kitchen utensils, toys and model steam engines.
     Although "Farmer Feeding Cow" bears no wordage that would identify its manufacturer or country of origin, discovery of the Bing catalog (Figure 2) may possibly have revealed significant information. Despite the fact the "Farmer Feeding Cow" was not pictured, it is believed to have been one of the company's series of mechanicals due to its visual, structural and mechanical similarities to other mechanical banks represented in the aforementioned catalog.
     The description and pricing of the Bing series of banks, as indicated in 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."
     "Farmer Feeding Cow" was constructed almost entirely of painted tinplate. The exceptions are the articulated figures of both the cow and the farmer. These are composed of cast, hand painted, zinc-lead alloy.
     "Farmer Feeding Cow" operates by first inserting a coin through a slot in the roof of the bank. The cow then nods its head (figure 3) as if accepting the farmer's herbaceous offering. Deposits are removed by opening the key lock, trap door coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank. The entire group of Bing articulated mechanicals is extremely rare. Its scarcity may be attributed to flimsy tinplate construction, delicately painted and/or paper-clad surfaces, as well as possible mishandling by previous youthful owners. I am not aware of the existence of any reproduced mechanicals in the Bing series. However, due to the aforementioned frailties, there is the possibility of repaired and/or replaced parts. In such an instance, limited professional conservation may be considered acceptable without significantly devaluating the bank's monetary worth.
     Although diminutive in size, i.e. Height: 3-1/2 inches; Width: 3-5/8 inches; Depth: 2-3/4 inches, "Farmer Feeding Cow" is an attractive and highly desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Note: In addition to our featured subject (figure 1), only one other manufactured mechanical bears the likeness of a cow, namely "Milking Cow Bank" (seen in Figure 4). It was manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, circa 1880 (refer to Antique Toy World, August 1987).
     Acknowledgement: The fine example "Farmer Feeding Cow Bank" (Figure 1) is in the Kidd Toy Museum Collection, Frank and Joyce Kidd Proprietors.

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