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 The Bulldog Savings Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine November, 1984 

     On the banks of the River Styx, guarding the forbidden gates, stood Cerberus, the Watchdog of Hell. An enormous beast, gigantic in proportion, bristling with rage.
     Hercules cautiously advanced towards the hellish dog, with hand outstretched. And Cerberus, being mad with hunger, sprang forward, greedily accepting his offerings of honey and drugged corn. And the great dog's body became quieted and he fell back to his reclining posture.
              
Virgil's The Aeneid, Greek mythology, 70 to 19 B.C.
 

     On August 13, 1878, Enoch R. Morrison was granted Patent number 206,893 for his design and invention of the Bulldog Savings Bank (Figure 1). The bank, as it was eventually manufactured by the Mechanical Novelty Works of New Britain, Connecticut (Figure 2), closely follows these drawings with the exception of the addition of a man in coattails, with outstretched hands, holding a forklike object with which to feed coins to the bulldog.
     I am almost certain neither Mr. Morrison (inventor) nor the Mechanical Novelty Works (manufacturer) had Cerberus in mind when they conceived of and manufactured the Bulldog Savings Bank, but one must admit there is an uncanny likeness between Virgil's Greek Myth and Morrison's mechanical bank.
     For several years it had been assumed that the Bulldog Savings Bank was manufactured by the Ives, Blakeslee Company, of Bridgeport, Connecticut. While researching the bank, I noticed a great many similarities between the Bulldog Savings Bank and all of the mechanical banks produced by the Mechanical Novelty Works. These similarities have led me to believe they were all manufactured by the same company.
     The Mechanical Novelty Works was a toy manufacturer owned and operated by Andrew Turnbull, James A. Swanston, and George W. Eddy. Mr. Eddy was the patentee of the Initiating First Degree and the Goat, Frog, and Old Man mechanical banks. Both of these banks, plus the Squirrel and Tree Stump bank, comprise the only mechanicals that are documented to have been manufactured by the Mechanical Novelty Works.
     When a comparison is made between the Bulldog Savings Bank and the Goat, Frog, and Old Man, one can readily see the great similarities between: (1) their base designs and configurations; (2) the use of a dark japan varnish and a muted color scheme; (3) the casting detail; and, most importantly, (4) the pivotal lever action a feature shared by every mechanical bank manufactured by the Mechanical Novelty Works.
     Nevertheless, the possibility does exist that the Mechanical Novelty Works jobbed out the Bulldog Savings Bank's clockwork mechanism to the Ives, Blakeslee Company, since they were the leading 19th century American toy manufacturer of spring-driven toys and trains.
The coloration of the Bulldog Savings Bank, or rather the lack, adds much to the drama of this intriguing mechanical. The base and figures of both the man and the bulldog are painted in a dark brown, japan finish. The bottom edge of the bank, the raised designs on both sides of the base, and words "BULLDOG SAVINGS BANK PAT. AUG. 13, 1878" (atop the base) are painted gold.
     The first step in operating the Bulldog Savings Bank is to wind the spring mechanism with a key. A coin is then inserted into the fork which the man holds. The lever underneath the man's coattails is then depressed. Simultaneously, the bulldog springs forward, mouth agape. Biting down upon the monetary offering, it swallows the coin and retreats to a reclining position (Figure 2). The coin falls through the dog's body and is deposited into the base of the bank. These coins are removed by way of a square coin trap, which is secured to the bottom of the bank with a single screw.
     (Note: The operating lever, as described above, should be made from a piece of tapered sheet steel and not from cast iron, as is the rest of the bank.)
     There are no color variations of the Bulldog Savings Bank, but there are two design variations. One, not readily evident, concerns itself with the internal clockwork mechanism. The other variation occurs with the type of fork held by our undaunted coin bearer. This fork could either be of a thick variety, as illustrated in Figure 2, or of a thinner spring steel type. Neither adds to, nor detracts from, the value of the bank.
     The Bulldog Savings Bank is one of an elite group of clockwork mechanical banks which includes such classics as: Professor Pug Frog's Great Bicycle Feat, the Girl Skipping Rope, Organ Grinder and Performing Bear, the Motor Bank, several Weeden's banks, and a number of musical and music box savings banks.
     The Bulldog Savings Bank is quite difficult to add to a collection, especially in fine condition. This may be attributed to possibly three factors:
(1) Price. At a time when mechanical banks were selling for 50 cents to 95 cents apiece, the Bulldog Savings Bank was advertised in the 1882 edition of Ehrichs' Fashion Quarterly for the sum of one dollar and forty-five cents. It may be assumed that few parents were able to afford to purchase one for their child.
(2) Fragility. Even though the bank gives a sturdy appearance, the clockwork mechanism is quite fragile, as are the bulldog, the figure of the man, and the fork. Most banks purchased were ultimately broken and discarded.
(3) Popularity. Selection of a penny bank suitable for a small child may have been directed toward the charming and colorful Professor Pug Frog Bank, or a Magician Bank, or, perhaps, a Speaking Dog Bank. It was unlikely that a parent's choice would center upon the frightening design of the Bulldog Savings Bank explaining why sales and production of this bank might have been sparse.
     Taking into consideration price, fragility, and popularity, we can readily see why the Bulldog Savings Bank is a rarity today.
     Contrary to the lack of popularity it suffered during its time of manufacture, it has become one of the most popular banks for most collectors.
     The Bulldog Savings Bank has not been reproduced. Nonetheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure 3) to indicate size and scale.

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