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Bird and Tower Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 2014

THE DISCOVERY of a heretofore unknown mechanical bank has always, for the serious collector, been accompanied by feelings of excitement. Uncovering the heritage of such an example can prove to be a challenging and worthwhile project.
     "Bird And Tower" Bank, the subject of this article (Figure 1), is a most interesting and attractive example of such a find. The subject itself represents a popular category of mechanicals. The portrayal of one of our fine-feathered friends was no stranger to early mechanical bank designers both in this country and abroad. Notable examples included: "Bird On Roof', "Eagle And Eaglets", "Cockatoo Pelican", "Feed The Goose", "Hen And Chick", "Monkey And Parrot", "Owl Slot In Head", "Owl Slot In Book", "Owl Turns Head", "Pelican Bank", "Spring Jawed Penguin", "Rooster Bank", "Two Ducks Bank", "Tin Woodpecker", etc....
     Unfortunately, there is no wordage imprinted upon "Bird And Tower" Bank that may have revealed its country of origin, manufacturer or date of production. In addition, no advertisements, catalog pages or patent papers have surfaced that may shed light upon this previously unknown mechanical.
     Despite the lack of any useful information as to the history of "Bird And Tower", its design and composition suggest the possibility that it is of German production, circa 1900-1935. During this period mechanical bank manufacturers within the United States utilized cast iron to create their products. European designers, however, were employing tin plate and zinc-alloy to create their mechanical banks and toys. "Bird And Tower" Bank is composed of a cast zinc-alloy bird and coin tray perch. The rotund tower and entire base of the bank was produced from tin plate.
     There existed several companies operating within Germany during the early 1900's that produced and distributed various tin plate and zinc-alloy products and toys for domestic, usage as well as export to foreign markets. These included Bing Bros. Metalware (Nurnberg), Gottfried Quitmann (Lunen), Otto and Max Hauser (Stuttgart), Edmund Hunger (Dresden), and Felix Lasse (Lepzig).
     The ambiguity of most tinplate, zinc-alloy mechanical banks produced in Germany during this period was due to several factors. Not only was information provided within catalogs quite limited, but also most catalogs themselves were destroyed during the First World War.
     The lack of patent data may also be attributed to early nineteenth century German patent law. During this period, products considered unimportant, e.g. toys and mechanical banks, were designated "Reichsgebrachmuster" (registered designs, not true patents) and routinely discarded after fifteen years of issuance. This practice played a significant role in creating an historical void for future collectors seeking knowledge of the inventors and manufacturers of these penny banks.
     Additionally, limited production and fragile tin plate/zinc-alloy construction may also account for the rarity of "Bird And Tower" Bank.
     Action of "Bird And Tower" is non-complex and swift. A coin is placed upon the small round tray located beneath the bird (Figure 2). The bird's tail is then flicked with the nail of the index finger. Simultaneously, the coin is propelled through the large slot located at the front façade of the tower. Coin retrieval is accomplished by simply shaking out deposits through the coin slot.
     Despite its monochromatic, simplistic construction and diminutive size (Height: 3 inches, Length: 5 inches), "Bird And Tower" Bank is an extremely rare and important mechanical, and an enhancement to any mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgment: The "Bird And Tower" Bank seen in Figure 1 is from the Kidd Toy Museum collection, Frank and Joyce Kidd proprietors.
     Correction: In my article entitled "Time Registering Bank", A.T.W. February 2014, I mistakingly quoted the bank's instructions label as stating "Patent Applied for L.B.&W. Co." It should read "Patent Applied for LB.&W. Co."

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