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Watch Dog Savings Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine March, 2011

     OVER THE CENTURIES audiences have been captivated by various forms of entertainment. None, however, can astonish and fascinate spectators as profoundly as magicians, conjurers and stage illusionists.
     Popular trends, attractions and curiosities of any era have always influenced enterprising individuals to create marketable, profitable wares. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the
public's infatuation with theatrical "chicanery" resulted in the design of numerous illusionary and magical creations. Shelves of variety and country stores began to be stocked with goods reflecting this popular theme. Amongst these were children's playthings such as games, toys, and mechanical banks.
Examples of such mechanicals produced during that era included "The Smyth X-Ray bank", "Presto Bank", penny changes to a quarter, "Multiplying Bank", "Wireless Bank" and the subject of this article, "Watch Dog Savings Bank" (Figure 1). However, these mechanicals differed from one another in the accomplishment of their objective to deceive. While "Smyth X-Ray", "Presto", and "Multiplying Bank" depended upon visual illusion, "Watch Dog Savings Bank" and "Wireless Bank" employed an audio
device in order to achieve their magic.
     Activation and action of "Watch Dog Savings Bank" is described on a paper label (Figure 2) affixed by the manufacturer to the bottom of each mechanical. An abbreviated version of that label reads as follows: "DIRECTIONS. Place the dog on the Figure 3 floor of the house. Push the dog back gently against spring flapper until you hear a click. Then draw dog forward gently just a trifle. Now place a coin gently in the slot in the top of the roof and clap your hands loudly in front of the door. The dog will jump out of the kennel (Figure 3) and the money disappears into the bank. ADJUSTMENT. If the mechanism gets out of adjustment, there is a screw in the back of the kennel that will remedy the problem. This adjustment screw controls the sensitiveness of the toy to sound. Screwing in the adjustment screw tends to make the dog hold in the kennel; screwing out tends to make the dog release easier by making it more sensitive to sound. TO GET MONEY OUT OF BANK remove one screw from name plate on front of kennel and turn plate down which will show an opening in the bank. Shake out coins. Patent Rights Protected NATIONAL COMPANY. Mechanical Specialty Engineers. 273-279 Congress Street, Boston, Mass., U.S.A.".
     "Watch Dog Savings Bank" was invented by Walter H. Balcke of Winchester, Massachusetts and William A. Ready of Brighton, Massachusetts. The two were issued Patent Number 1,316,474 on September 16, 1919 (refer to Figure 4). They subsequently assigned the bank's design and production to the National Company of Boston, Massachusetts. As evidenced by the patent drawings, "Watch Dog Savings Bank" closely adhered to its intended design and mechanism, including the simplistic shape of the canine occupant of the "kennel".
     During that period The National Company was involved in the utilization of sound vibration as a functional component of its products. In addition to "Watch Dog Savings Bank", this firm produced another mechanical entitled "Jip the Jumper", The Dog That Barks (Figure 5). While sound vibration activated the dog in "Watch Dog Savings Bank" to emerge from its doghouse. National Company employed sound vibration to produce a barking effect for "Jip The Jumper".
     "Watch Dog Savings Bank" is composed almost entirely of wood. The exceptions are the tinplate internal operating mechanism and the name plaque on the facade of the doghouse.
     Presumably, National Company is also believed to have been the manufacturer of a toy entitled "Wireless Pup". Although its featured wooden dog and doghouse displayed a similar appearance and "eject" action to our subject, "Wireless Pup" utilized a battery-activated electromagnet while "Watch Dog Savings Bank" employed a spring and permanent magnet to implement its activation. To complicate matters, a label affixed to the underside of "Wireless Pup" indicates its inventor was a Mr. Christian Berger and not Walter H. Balcke and William A. Ready, who were the inventors of "Watch Dog Savings Bank".
  To date, there is no factual evidence to determine the connection, if any, between Mr. Christian Berger's "Wireless Pup" toy and The National Company's "Watch Dog Savings Bank", other than their undeniably similar construction, action and appearance. Perhaps future research will reveal a plausible explanation.
      On a final note, despite its simplistic design and diminutive size (Height: 5-1/4 inches. Width: 5-1/4 inches. Depth: 6-112 inches) "Watch Dog Savings Bank" is a unique, desirable and attractive addition to a mechanical bank collection. It with only a handful of completely original, and operational, examples known to reside in the collections of a few fortunate collectors.

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