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Musical Savings Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine April, 2011

     OVER THE CENTURIES, both young and old alike have enjoyed lilting melodies emanating from ingenious automated musical apparatus. Unfortunately, earliest examples were extremely expensive to produce and their sales limited to only the wealthy.
     These instruments were constructed utilizing either circular metal perforated disks or small articulated hammers and bells. It was not until the early twentieth century, and thanks to Charles and Alice Reuge of Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, that a moderately priced, miniaturized pin-drum and comb musical movement (Figure 1) was employed within the music box. This ingenious development resulted
in the creation of an automated musical commodity now affordable by the masses.
     The compact, easily installed Reuge musical movements eventually led to the production of a plethora of novelty items and toys. Beautifully crafted and bejeweled music boxes were a desirable gift from an ardent suitor to his beloved. Young girls stored trinkets in small Reuge boxes, some incorporating a figure of a ballerina pirouetting or performing a pli6 to a classical melody (Figure 2). Infants were lulled to sleep as their music boxes played Brahm's Lullaby. Children were delighted and entertained by their musical toys and mechanical banks.
     Manufactured primarily in Europe, the aforementioned musical mechanical banks included artfully designed, animated wooden and zinc alloy examples while others were skillfully composed of tinplate. The "Musical Saving Bank", seen in Figure 3, is representative of the latter.
     Fortunately, information impressed into the front and rear of the bank, namely "MUSICAL SAVING BANK. Swiss Made Swiss Patent No. 102591" has provided the pertinent data confirming our subject's identification.
     Mr. F. H. Griffith, renowned mechanical bank historian, reported the following regarding the Swiss patent No. 102591 in his article dated January 1967: "The patent on Musical Saving Bank was issued to Madam Alice Reuge Ste-Croix, Vaud, Suisse, March 1, 1923. The text of the patent is in French and there is a page of drawings numbered 1 through 5, depicting the method of operation. And the text goes into detail as to the music only playing upon the insertion of a coin".
     The example of the mechanical seen in Figure 3 was created specifically for tourists as a novelty item. This assumption is derived from a medallion affixed to the facade of the bank. The disk reads: "AMSTERDAM RIJKS MUSEUM". Other examples of "Musical Saving Bank" that I have seen display dissimilar wordage. While some incorporated the images of different European tourist attractions, a few featured the images of animals.
     The example "Musical Saving Bank" seen in Figure 3 also exhibits a paper label affixed to the underside of its base. It reads: "MUSICAL SAVING BANK BELLS OF SHASTRY RIGOLETTO". It is feasible that other tunes were utilized by Reuge, thereby offering purchasers a choice to acquire a music box or novelty favored composition.
     "Musical Saving Bank" is activated by initially winding the clockworks movement with the attached key-winder positioned in back of the bank (Figure 4). A coin is then deposited through the slot located in the top of the bank. Upon its insertion the bank will commence playing a single tune. Another coin will be needed if the bank is to repeat the melody. Monies are reclaimed by opening the bank's key lock base plate.
     To conclude, despite its simplistic design and diminutive size (Height: 6-1/8 inches. Width: 3-7/8 inches. Depth: 2-3/4 inches), "Musical Saving Bank" is a unique and interesting addition to a mechanical bank collection. It is extremely rare, with merely a handful of examples providing musical performances for a few fortunate collectors.
     Acknowledgment: The fine example "Musical Saving Bank" (Figure 3) is in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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