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The Organ Bank with Monkey,
Cat and Dog

by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine October, 1984

     If the question was posed as to which 19th-century mechanical bank manufacturer incorporated the figure of a monkey into more of their banks than any other manufacturer of the period, the answer would undoubtedly be the Kyser and Rex Company of Frankford, Pennsylvania. Their line included such banks as the "Organ Bank with Monkey;" "Tiny Organ Bank with Monkey;" "Organ Bank with Monkey, Boy and Girl;" "Lion and Two Monkeys;" the "Chimpanzee Bank;" the "Zoo Bank" (which is only speculated to be a Kyser and Rex bank); and the "Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog" the subject of this article. Aside from being a most popular and endearing creature with young children, the reason Kyser and Rex may have incorporated the monkey into so many of their banks may have been due to the universal appeal of the commonplace street-strolling organ grinder and his pet monkey.
     On June 13, 1882, Louis Kyser and Alfred C. Rex of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received Patent number 259,403 for their design and invention of the Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog. (The information," Pat. June 13, 1882" is cast into the back of the bank and facilitated location of the patent papers shown in Figure 1 of this article.) The bank, as it was eventually manufactured by the Kyser and Rex Company, follows these patent drawings quite faithfully.
     The action of the Organ Bank is both charming and entertaining. A coin is placed upon the round tray the monkey holds in his outstretched hand. The crank is then turned, causing both the figures of the cat and dog to revolve. Simultaneously, bells start to clang, and the monkey lowers his tray and deposits the coin within the bank, tipping his hat in a polite "thank you" gesture. The deposited coins are removed by way of a square lock coin trap in the underside of the bank. The action is most aptly described in an advertisement which appeared in the 1889 Montgomery Ward and Company Catalog (Fig. 2), which shows the Organ Bank priced at a modest 85 cents apiece.
     There are several casting and design variations of the Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog. One pertains to the number of bells used to perform the loud chiming sound as the crank is turned. Some banks have two bells, as shown in the patent papers (Fig. 1); others utilize three bells. Another casting variation concerns itself with the position of the crank: the patent drawings show it on the left side of the bank; I have also seen it extending from the right side.
     The disproportionate sizes of the monkey, cat and dog give the bank somewhat of a primitive appearance. This unique aspect, combined with its entertaining action, colorful appearance, and noisy sound, have made this a most popular mechanical bank with yesterday's purchaser and today's collector.
     There are several color variations of the Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog. The one pictured in Figure 3 has the organ finished in brown japan and the organ pipes painted gold. The sheet music on the front of the bank is white with black markings. The dog is white with black splotches, and the cat is white with reddish-brown splotches. Both have black eyes, eyebrows and noses, and they both have red mouths. The monkey sits upon a square blue base; his head, hands and feet are brown. He has white eyes with black pupils and a red, smiling mouth. His hat is red and yellow, and he has a red jacket with large yellow buttons, and white collar and white cuffs. His trousers are yellow, and the round coin tray he holds is painted gold.
     Other color variations may find the monkey with either a blue, yellow, or green jacket; blue, red, or green pants; and, possibly, a blue and red or a blue and yellow hat. Because of the many color variations, I would caution against the hasty declaration that a bank has been repainted if it fails to comply with the aforementioned color schemes. The possibility of still another color combination cannot be ruled out.
     As with all Kyser and Rex banks, great care has been given to fine details, both in the area of casting and in the painted decorations. Close examination of this fine bank will serve as testimony to the designer's and manufacturer's meticulous and impeccable care for their product.
     The Organ Bank is considered quite common, but locating one in perfect condition with superb paint can prove a real challenge to the collector. More often than not, the bank is found badly in need of repair. The monkey might be missing either one or both arms, while the organ itself, because of its delicate casting, might be cracked or missing the crank.
     The Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog has been reproduced. Therefore, I am including a base diagram (Fig. 4) to illustrate an original's size. A recast bank will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch smaller, due to shrinking of the cast iron.
     CORRECTION:   In the August 1983 issue of Antique Toy World, the "Little Jocko Musical Bank" article erroneously stated that: "the Ives Blakeslee and Williams Company manufactured the Organ Bank with Monkey, Cat and Dog and the Organ Bank with Monkey, Boy and Girl."
     The manufacturer should have correctly been listed as the Kyser and Rex Company of Frankford, Pennsylvania. My sincerest apologies to both Louis and Alfred C.

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