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NODDING CLOWN BANK
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine June, 2013

THRILLING, DAZZLING and thoroughly entertaining are the performances under the "Big Top". No circus is complete, however, without the antics of those lovable comics referred to as "clowns".
     Over the centuries, the timeless appeal of these zany characters is evidenced by the great number of various manufactured items featuring their image. Toys, including mechanical banks, are to be included amongst the multitude. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mechanical banks portraying clowns were produced in both the United States and abroad. Notable examples include our subject, this article, i.e. "Nodding Clown" (Figure I), as well as "Clown on Globe", "Jolly Joe the Clown", "Elephant and Three Clowns", "Hoop-La", "Circus Bank", "Clown and Dog", etc....
     There is little known information pertaining to the inventor, manufacturer, or date of production of "Nodding Clown". However, its design and composition as well as a metal plaque affixed to its facade enabled determination of the bank's country of origin. Its composition, specifically, slush molded zinc-alloy, was utilized almost exclusively by German manufacturers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This material was favored for production of easily produced, inexpensive novelty items and toy penny banks.
     The aforementioned unavailability of data pertaining to "Nodding Figure 2 Clown" Bank may have resulted, in part, from a common practice mandated by late nineteenth, early twentieth century German patent law. Since these toy penny banks and their like were considered relatively unimportant, they were designated "insignificant patents". Such documents were routinely discarded after fifteen years of issuance.
     "Nodding Clown" is representational of a group of mechanical banks that served as a venue for entrepreneurs to advertise either their products or services. Such mechanicals were not only sold commercially without advertising through customary trade outlets, but also were offered as complimentary premiums displaying the advertiser's name.
     A plaque affixed to the facade of "Nodding Clown" displays the company's name, i.e. "X. Kreissle, Acetylenwerk, Leutkrich, Wart" (refer to Figure 2). The information printed upon this plaque is of Germanic text. It has been researched and translated to disclose the name of the advertiser, its type of business and the location of operation.
     The X. Kreissle Company was a supplier of acetylene gas that fueled the torches and furnaces of novelty glass fabricating companies operating in the Baden-WUrtemberg area of Germany. The town of Leutkirch, which was the location of X. Ifreissle's plant, was world-renowned for its woodcarving workshops and novelty glass studios.
     Interestingly, other examples of mechanicals exhibiting advertising, specifically those of American manufacture, are "Pump and Bucket", "Owl Turns Head", "Eagle and Eaglets", and "Speaking Dog". These occasionally exhibit the phrase "Compliments of Gusky's" that is either painted upon or cast into their surfaces. Gusky's was Pittsburgh's first department store, having opened its doors for business in 1880. Its proprietor, Jacob Mark Gusky offered a complimentary toy penny bank inscribed with the phrase "Compliments of Gusky's" to any child whose father purchased a suit at his establishment.
     Many companies in the early twentieth century similarly utilized tin mechanical banks as their advertising canvas. They included "Calumet Bank" (the Calumet Baking Powder Company, Chicago, Illinois), and "Lyon's Toffees, London, England" (imprinted upon mechanicals produced by Saalheimer and Strauss, NUrnberg, Germany).
    Action of "Nodding Clown" is simplistic albeit amusing. A coin is deposited via the appropriate slot in front of the bank. As it descends, the clown's head nods in gracious acknowledgment of the gratuity. Deposits are recovered by opening the key lock trap door-type coin retainer located underneath the bank.
     Admittedly, "Nodding Clown" is limited in action, is simply constructed, and is diminutive in size, i.e. height: 8-1/2 inches; base diameter: 3-7/8 inches. However, these do not diminish its desirability. It is a unique, extremely rare, attractive and welcome addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgment: The superb example "Nodding Clown" Mechanical Bank is within the collection of the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce Kidd proprietors.

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