by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – November, 2011
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Behold! a giant am I!
Aloft here in my tower.
Whinny granite jaws I devour
The Maize and the wheat, and the rye.
And grind them Into flour.
I hear the sound of flails
Far off, from the threshing-floors
In barns, with their open doors,
And the wind, the wind in my sails.
Louder and louder roars.
And while we wrestle and strive,
My master, the miller. stands
And feeds me with his hands:
For he knows who makes him thrive,
Who makes him lord of lands.
On Sundays I take my rest:
Church-going bells begin
Their low, melodious din:
I cross my arms on my breast,
And all is peace within.
WINDMILL BANK GRAND AND GRACEFUL are those wind-activated structures so aptly termed
(Figure 1). One can imagine wispy sails slowly turning in the gentle
morning breeze. However, their internal power is revealed by the
rotating, weighty granite millstones hidden deep within their
(Eloquently capturing this scenario is a poem penned by Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow entitled "The Windmill", paraphrased in Figure 2.)
Our subject, this article, is the "Windmill Bank" (Figure 3). It
reflects the popularity of farm and industrial themes employed by late
nineteenth and early twentieth century
mechanical bank manufacturers, both in this country and abroad.
The "Windmill Bank" is but one of a series of rare and desirable
brightly lithographed tin plate mechanicals believed to have been
produced some time during the years 1900-1935. To date, no patent papers
or manufacturers' catalogs featuring the "Windmill Bank" have been
located. However, several of its overall mechanical and design
characteristics are similar to other tin lithographed mechanical banks
created by the Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works of Ntirnberg, Germany.
It is, therefore, an assumption that "Windmill Bank" was possibly a
product of that company.
Of interest is the fact that, although all European windmills were
similar in mechanics and design, several countries exhibited dissimilar structures. The windmills of the Netherlands (seen in Figure 1)
are of a cylindrical shape. In contrast, the "Windmill Bank" (Figure 3),
Germanic design: i.e. flat façade with arched roof. Pictured in Figure 4
is a nineteenth century windmill structure located in
Colbitz-SaxonyAnholt, Germany. It is remarkably recognizable in shape
and design to our subject, lending further support to the assumption
that the bank is of German origin.
Figure 5 represents an early Saalheimer and Strauss sales flyer, circa
1900-1935. In it are offered several lithographed tin plate mechanicals.
Noticeable and undeniable is the similarity between "Windmill Bank" and
four of the represented mechanicals, namely "Scotsman", "Minstrel", "Bonzo",
and "Jolly Joe the Clown".
Operation of "Windmill Bank" is initiated by inserting a coin through
its roof. Simultaneously, the money descends into the mechanical,
striking an internal flywheel, thereby causing the sails of the windmill
several revolutions. Deposits are recovered by opening the key lock,
trapdoor-type coin retainer located underneath the base of the bank.
To my knowledge, none of the known Saalheimer and Strauss mechanical
banks, as well as our subject, has been reproduced. However, this does
not preclude the possibility of reproduced or replaced fragile
components, i.e. roof, sails, or base. Needless to say, in such
instances, the value of the bank is somewhat compromised.
Despite its tin plate construction and diminutive size (Height: 6-3/4
inches. Width: 2-3/4 inches), "Windmill Bank" is an extremely desirable,
rare and attractive addition to a mechanical bank collection.