CAPTAIN KIDD MECHANICAL BANK
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – November, 2012
WITHIN THE world of mechanical banks, the unexpected discovery of an
important "new find" is exciting and surprising. Collectors and
historians of mechanical banks are quite familiar with early catalog
advertisements featuring mechanicals for sale, with no actual
representative ever materializing. Our topic of discussion, "Captain
Kidd Mechanical Bank" (Figure 1) is one such hitherto unknown example.
An early Montgomery Ward and Company catalog ad (Figure 2), circa
1902, pictures a "Captain Kidd Mechanical Bank". The advertisement
describes its action as follows: "When money is placed in the bank the
arm raises the spade". Interestingly, contrary to aptain Kidd Bank" had
also advertisement in a Butler Brothers and Company catalog, circa 1901
(Figure 3). In this ad the bank was presented as a "still bank" (i.e.
when coins are deposited through the slot, the arm and spade remain
Regrettably, and based upon the description provided by the
Montgomery Ward catalog ad (Figure 2), it is believed that, during the
1940's, an unscrupulous individual created several "Captain Kidd"
mechanical banks, by modifying original "Captain Kidd" still bank
examples. Knowledgeable collectors were able to detect such fraudulent
depictions quite easily. Bogus castings and mechanisms were naïvely
designed and crudely cast. Figure 6 Authorities of that era, e.g. Mr.
Floyd Griffith and Mr. Louis Hertz, alerted the collecting community.
Mr. Hertz cautioned "even though the "Captain Kidd Bank" is described as
a mechanical bank in a Montgomery Ward catalog advertisement the bank is
known to exist only as a still bank, with no authentic mechanical
examples to have turned up".
An exciting discovery of an original example "Captain Kidd
Mechanical Bank" (Figure 1) has recently been revealed. Its discoverer
is noted still bank collector and historian, Mr. Harold Blau. Mr. Blau
had contacted several experts in the field of metallurgy, foundry
casting, and collecting to ascertain the authenticity of his finding.
Figure 4 represents the interior of the original "Captain Kidd
Mechanical Bank". Based upon detailed and intricate examination by Mr.
Blau and his team of experts, all are satisfied that the criteria for
originality of our subject has been satisfied.
Thus far, no manufacturer's catalog or data representing either the
"Captain Kidd" mechanical or still bank has surfaced. However, it is
thought to have been a product of J.M. Harper of Chicago, Illinois. This
assumption is based upon similar casting and paint coloration to another
documented J.M. Harper bank, namely "The Two Kids" still bank, seen in
The inspiration for the design and creation of "Captain Kidd"
banks, both still and mechanical, was, in all probability, a result of
the popularity of the subject's namesake. Songs, stories, and children's
books illustrating the adventures of that infamous pirate, Captain Kidd
(Figure 6), elicited interest by the public, and ultimately by
manufacturers such as the alleged J. M. Harper.
There is only minimal action of the "Captain Kidd" mechanical bank.
Aptly described in the Montgomery Ward catalog, the ad (Figure 1) reads
as follows: "CAPTAIN KIDD BANK. For cents, nickels and dimes; finished
in hard black enamel with red, silver and gilt bronze trimmings. When
money is placed in the bank the arm raises the spade. A brief history of
Capt. Kidd goes with each bank. Shipping weight 28oz. Each - 20g.".
Despite its relatively simplistic action and miniscule size (i.e.
Height: 5-5/8 inches Width: 4-1/4 inches. Depth: 2-1/8 inches) the
rarity of "Captain Kidd Mechanical Bank", as well as its attractiveness,
offer testimony to its importance as an impressive member of a
mechanical bank collection.
Addendum.: The fine example "Two Kids" still bank (Figure 5) is in
the collection of Bob and Shirley Peirce.