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Time Lock Savings Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 2009

     How often have we heard expressions such as "save for a rainy day" and "a penny saved is a penny earned"? Who is not familiar with Benjamin Franklin's wise advice, reportedly spoken to a young entrepreneur in 1795, that "time is money"? Other maxims, fables, as well as various objects, including children's playthings, were created to encourage savings and thrift.
     During the latter portion of the nineteenth century the first patented mechanical penny bank was introduced to the market place. Its primary purpose was to inspire children, via their playthings, to be thrifty and save their pennies. Booming sales resulted in a new and profitable business venture. The period spanning 1869 through 1935 saw the birth of more than five hundred mechanical banks portraying various subjects. Categories ranged from architecture to sports, politics, animals, circus performers, etc.
     Several of these mechanicals reflected Ben Franklin's aforementioned adage "time is money". Such notables include: "Chandler's Bank" with clock; "Time Is Money Bank" portraying Father Time; "Toboggan Bank" with clock; and the subject of this article, "Time Lock Savings Bank" (Figure 1).
     "Chandler's Bank" and "Toboggan Bank" both utilize an actual working timepiece, albeit solely as a decorative feature, while "Time is Money", as previously stated, features an image of "Father Time". However, the clock incorporated into the construction of "Time Lock Savings Bank", is a fully functional component of the bank's mechanism and is utilized to activate its time lock savings program.
     The invention of "Time Lock Savings Bank" is attributed to Le Roy W. Baldwin of New York City. On June 21, 1892 Baldwin was granted Patent Number 477,321 (Figure 2).
     I am also in possession of a similar patent pertaining to a time lock savings bank that utilizes a similar clockwork mechanism. This document was issued to a Mr. George S. Iredell on January 31, 1888. Iredell was granted Patent Number 377,259 (Figure 3) for his design.
     Interestingly, a third party may have been instrumental in the development of "Time Lock Savings Bank". Mentioned within the text portion of Mr. Baldwin's Patent (Figure 2), the author gives credit to a Mr. G. Spiegel. It appears Mr. Spiegel filed for a similar "time lock bank" patent on June 16, 1891, for which he was granted Patent Number 396,420.
     "Time Lock Savings Bank" was ultimately produced by the Louis Manufacturing Company. A small, obscure firm located in New York City, the company supposedly produced only this mechanical bank.
     Activation of "Time Lock Savings Bank" is fairly simple. Figure 4 represents a rear section of the bank, wherein is seen a small window and the winding stem of the clockwork. Above this opening are the words "BANK OPENS IN ... DAYS". Initially, the clock is fully wound, using the appropriate clock key. The determined number of days (from one to thirty-one) is then set, via a small internal dial inside the bank. This number will appear in the aforementioned window (Figure 4). Coins can be inserted during the allocated number of days. When that day is reached, a door in the side of the bank (Figure 5) automatically opens, allowing for recovery of all deposited coins. The clock operates approximately thirty hours per winding and, consequently, must be wound each day in order for the mechanism to perform accurately.
     "Time Lock Savings Bank" is constructed almost entirely of nickel plated, cast iron. The exceptions are its clock face and internal clock works mechanism. These components were created from brass.
     "Time Lock Savings Bank" is extremely rare, with little more than a handful of complete, working examples in the possession of a few fortunate collectors.
     I am currently not aware of the existence of reproductions of this mechanical bank. The following dimensions are provided solely to inform the collector of size and scale: Height: 4-5/8 inches, Width: 4-1/8 inches, Depth: 5-3/8 inches.
     Acknowledgement: The fine, complete, working example "Time Lock Savings Bank" (Figure 1) resides in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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