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Thrifty Tom's Jigger Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 2012

     HUMILIATION AND SUFFERING were the fates of the unfortunate blacks unwillingly brought to this country from Africa. Thrust into a world of slavery. their music and dance provided a measure of solace and maintainment of cultural identity.
     The soul-stirring melodies of the slave eventually evolved into a form of musical entertainment enjoyed by the non-black public. This was demonstrated during the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Minstrel shows became a popular part of Vaudeville theatrical performances.
     This "new" music and dance did not escape the attention of enterprising manufacturers of children's playthings. Both hand-operated and key-wind toys were created in the image of "Jigger" dancing figures (Figures 1, 2, 3). The Ferdinand Strauss Corp. of New York, N.Y. was the foremost distributor and producer of animated tin-plate toys of the early twentieth century. One of their creations, "Thrifty Tom's Jigger Bank" (Figure 4) and the subject of this article, was a toy mechanical bank representing the Minstrel performer of those Vaudeville shows.
     Relevant information pertaining to the lineage of "Thrifty Torn" was provided by the folowing wordage imprinted on the underside of the bank: "THRIFTY TOM'S JIGGER BANK, TRADE MARK, THE FERDINAND STRAUSS CORP. NEW YORK, U.S.A., U.S. Pat. May 24, 1910, October 15, 1918. Other Patents Pending".
     To date, no patent papers have surfaced correlating directly to either patent date indicated on the underside of the bank. The lone official patent document for a coin activated, wind-up, clockworks dancing "Jigger" mechanical bank, i.e. Patent Number 1,532,424, was issued to a Mr. Louis Mark of New York City on April 7, 1925 (refer to Figure 5). 
     This discrepancy in patent designation may be explained by the fact that, circa 1920, Ferdinand
Strauss sold a major portion of his business to the Louis Marx Company. Perhaps Mr. Marx realized that several of the more popular toy designs (including "Thrifty Tom's Bank"), purchased from the Strauss Company did not enjoy proper patent protection. He may have reapplied for, and received, the patent seen in Figure 5.
     Action of "Thrifty Tom" was considered entertaining and appropriate to the subject. Prior to operation the bank must first be wound by means of the non-removable key located at and protruding from, the back of the base. A coin is Figure 3 then deposited through the raised slot on the top of the platform. Simultaneously, "Thrifty Tom" commences to perform an animated jig that continues until the spring mechanism winds itself down. Deposits are removed through a small door at the end of the base (seen in Figure 4).
     "Thrifty Tom" is composed, almost entirely, of embossed, brightly lithographed tin-plate. As with most fragile tin-plate toys manufactured during this period, each "Thrifty Tom" was packaged singly in a cardboard box (Figure 4). These boxes were generally decorated with brightly colored, attractive illustrations. Most collectors now value a boxed example at more than triple that of the bank itself.
     I am not aware of the existence of "Thrifty Tom's Jigger Bank" reproductions. Nonetheless, the following dimensions are provided to aid the collector in determining size and scale: Height: 10 inches; Width of base: 443/4 inches; Depth: 3-1/4 inches.
      Figure 6 represents the top of the base platform of "Thrifty Tom". It is of interest, historically, in that it pictures the various coinage of the day.
     Acknowledgment: 7'he mint example. "Thrifty Tom's Jigger Bank" (Figure 41 and its original box, are from the collection of Bob Weiss.

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