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Village Blacksmith Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – October, 2009

     Imagine life as it was a century ago! Commonplace was individuals engaged in once necessary but now uncommon, or obsolete, occupations, such as chimney sweep, wainwright, and, of course, blacksmith. We can only imagine an audience of enthralled youngsters gazing upon the local village blacksmith as he hand forged his molten wares. Eloquently capturing this scenario is the poem scripted by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, entitled "The Village Blacksmith" (paraphrased in Figure 1).

The Village Blacksmith
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

     Timely occupational themes were amongst the categories utilized by nineteenth and twentieth century mechanical bank manufacturers, both in this country and abroad. One of these, and the subject of this article, is the "Village Blacksmith Bank" (Figure 2).
     The "Village Blacksmith Bank" is but one of a series of extremely rare and desirable mechanicals believed to have been produced sometime during the years 1900-1920 by the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg, Germany. Bing was also renowned for its line of tinplate kitchen utensils, toys, and model steam engines.
     Although the "Village Blacksmith Bank" bears no wordage to identify its manufacturer and country of origin, discovery of the Bing catalog (Figure 3) may possibly reveal significant information. Despite the fact that the "Village Blacksmith" was not pictured, it is assumed to have been one of the company's series of mechanicals. Visually, structurally, and mechanically, it is quite similar to other mechanical banks represented in the aforementioned catalog.
     Description and prices of the Bing series of the Bing series of banks (as indicated in Figure 3) are as follows: "Banks – Made of tin, nicely decorated. With lock and moving figures. Supplied in 24 assorted subjects. Price per piece: Mark - .57".
     The "Village Blacksmith Bank" is constructed almost entirely of painted tinplate. The exception is the articulated figure of the blacksmith and the anvil and pedestal. These are composed of finely cast, hand painted, zinc-lead alloy.
     Operation of the mechanical is initiated by inserting a coin through a slot in the back of the bank. The blacksmith then raises its right arm and hammer. Upon deposition of the coin the arm descends and the hammer strikes the anvil (Figure 4). Coins are removed by opening the key lock, trap door-type coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank.
     The "Blacksmith Bank" is extremely rare, with only two examples known to exist. The mechanical pictured in Figure 2 is presently on display at the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce Kidd Proprietors. The photograph of the "Blacksmith Bank" seen in Figure 5 was provided to me by fellow collector Van Dexter, the now retired proprietor of the former Manhattan establishment "Second Childhood' Antique Toys". The owner of the mechanical pictured in the photograph supplied by Van Dexter remains anonymous.
     Of interest is the fact that each of the known examples "Blacksmith Bank" lacks an integral, but different component of the subject. Fortuitously, each missing part supplements the figure of the other bank, thereby allowing visualization of a totally original, complete example. (Note: the bank seen in Figure 2 is missing the anvil and pedestal, while Figure 5 reveals a blacksmith in want of a hammer.)
     I am not aware of the existence of reproduced examples of "Village Blacksmith". However, in view of its fragile and delicate nature there is the possibility of restored and/or replaced parts. If this has occurred, limited professional conservation may be considered acceptable without significantly affecting, the bank's monetary value.
     Although diminutive in size, i.e. Height: 4-5/8 inches. Width: 3-1/4 inches. Depth: 2-1/4 inches, the "Village Blacksmith Bank" is an extremely attractive and desirable addition to a collection of mechanical banks.
     In conclusion, and worthy of mention, is that many similar mechanicals featured in the Bing catalog (Figure 3) may also be seen illustrated in a Maienthau & Wolff catalog (Figure 6). This firm is believed to have been a leading tinplate toy and bank distributor, also located in Nurnberg, Germany. It may be assumed that the Gebruder Bing Tin Works could possibly have been one of their major suppliers.
     Acknowledgments: Copies of the Bing catalog pages (Figure 3) and the Maienthou & Wolff catalog page (Figure 6) were provided by collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of Nurnberg, Germany.

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