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Uncle Tom Bank Part 2
A Unique Casting and Color Variation
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 2009

     The historic significance of the "Uncle Tom" mechanical bank has long been recognized. As did several other toys and banks that were produced following the Civil War, this mechanical reflected the racial intolerance and anti-black sentiment prevalent within the United States.
     The name "Uncle Tom" was derived from the featured character in a novel penned by Harriet Beecher Stowe. "Uncle Tom's Cabin", published
in 1852, is the well-known story revolving around a slave, i.e. Uncle Tom, who was able to forgive his cruel slave masters despite suffering horrendous acts of cruelty. Although the Civil War ended in 1860 and President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed the enslaved blacks, their degradation did not cease. A plethora of racist literature, music, objects and children's playthings continued to be produced.
     "Uncle Tom" Bank, seen in Figure 1, was manufactured by the Kyser and Rex Foundry in Frankford. Pennsylvania. Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex received Patent Number 252,607 (Figure 2) for their invention. An advertisement from the 1886 edition of a Montgomery Ward and Company catalog (Figure 3) offered the "Uncle Tom Iron Bank", as it was originally designated, at the price of forty-five cents apiece.
     Interestingly, the "Uncle Tom" Bank has the unique distinction of being produced utilizing four notably different castings. Figure 1 represents "Uncle Tom" clothed in a jacket with large lapels, a star adorning its shirt, large teeth protruding from its lower jaw, and non-movable eyes. The variation seen in Figure 4 has its subject sporting a jacket with large lapels, and a star decorates its shirt. However, in this instance, its eyes are movable and the mouth does not display teeth. Figure 5 is similar to the bank referred to in Figure 4. except that there is no star cast upon its shirt. Finally, "Uncle Tom" Bank, as seen in Figure 6, has no lapels on its jacket but does have a star present upon its shirt. There is also evidence of upper and lower teeth. With the exception of the "Uncle Tom" seen in Figure 1 all variants feature articulated eyes.
     In most instances, operation of "Uncle Tom" Bank is identical. Initially, a small lever located in back of the bank is depressed. This causes the tongue to protrude and Tom's eyes to roll upward. (The exception is the "Uncle Tom" seen in Figure 6, wherein there is downward movement of Tom's eyes.) A coin is then placed upon the extended tongue and the lever is released. The tongue recedes, drawing the money into the bank, thus completing the deposit. Coins are
retrieved via a square key lock coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank. These locking closures are marked "U.T." (refer to Figure 7).
     It is interesting that the mechanical pictured in Figure 1, the subject of this article, appears to most closely resemble the "Uncle Tom" described in the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel, that of an older, white haired gentleman. What remains elusive is why Kyser and Rex proceeded to manufacture several different casting versions of this mechanical. Historians and bank collectors alike continue to ponder the question.
     Unlike the other "Uncle Toni" variations, our featured mechanical (Figure 1) is unique and extremely rare. However, acquiring and assembling an example of each version in pristine condition should prove a challenge for even the most advanced collector.
     I am not aware of any reproductions of "Uncle Tom" Bank. Nonetheless, Figure 7 represents an actual base of an original example. If a recast was attempted it would appear approximately one-eighth inch smaller, O.D., than indicated.
     Acknowledgment: My gratitude to Frank and Joyce Kidd, proprietors of the Kidd Toy Museum, for providing photos of their unique variant "Uncle Tom" Bank (Figure 1). Additionally, Mr. Kidd related the following: The white haired "Uncle Tom" Bank with non-articulated eyes was the final mechanical purchased by pioneer mechanical bank collectors Covert and Gertrude. Hegery. Sadly, it arrived in the mail subsequent to Mr. Hegerty's passing.

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