The Punch and Judy Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1986
A little over
one-hundred and fifty years ago, those characters we recognize as Punch
and Judy were immortalized by the London artist, George Cruikshank. His
inspiration was a puppet show created by Piccini, a 19th-century
The Punch and Judy theme can be traced to early Greek theatre wherein
the zany antics of Punch and Judy were acted out on stage, by live actors.
Its puppet theatre origin was with the Italian puppeteer, Pulcinello. He
is credited with bringing these two characters to seventeenth-century
England. From the onset, the enthusiasm with which Punch and Judy were
received by the children of England made it apparent that they were here
Seizing upon the opportunity to create a toy bank with such appealing
subject matter as to guarantee almost instant success, both Peter Adams,
Jr. and Charles G. Shepard, of Buffalo, New York, designed and patented
the "Punch and Judy" mechanical bank. On July 15, 1884, they were granted
302,039 (Figure 1). A subsequent Patent, number
granted to Adams and Shepard on July 22, 1884, which changed and protected
only the external design of the bank (the way it was finally
manufactured), Figure 2. The drawings contained in this patent accurately
follow the traditional English Punch and Judy puppet theatre.
The base plate underneath the bank designates its two American patent
dates and an English registry number. Stated, in raised letters, is the
following: "BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S.A. PAID IN U.S. JULY 15, '84 AND JULY 22,
'84 RD IN ENGLAND NO. 10423." When one considers the popularity of Punch
and Judy in 19th century England, it is understood why Shepard might have
wanted to protect the bank both here and abroad.
The final production bank shown in Figure 3 was manufactured and sold
by the Shepard Hardware Co. of Buffalo, New York.
All of the banks produced by the Shepard Co., including Punch and
Judy, reveal great care and attention to find casting and meticulous paint
decoration. Unfortunately, this fine paint was eventually to deteriorate
and flake from its surface. The reason was that this most conscientious of
manufacturers neglected to use a primer undercoat prior to final painting.
There are no color variations of the Punch and Judy bank, but there
are three casting variations. These pertain solely to the letters which
form the words "PUNCH AND JUDY BANK" at the peak of each bank. The bank
pictured in Figure 3 is referred to as the" Large Letters" variation. The
other two have the name "PUNCH AND JUDY BANK" across a raised arched
ribbon in "small" and "medium" block letters. These differences neither
add to, nor detract from, the bank's ultimate value.
The colors of the bank pictured in Figure 3 are extremely attractive
and are consistent in all three variants. The frame around the entire
front of the bank is bright red. The background of the marquee and the
square section under the stage is yellow. The curtain rod is blue, as are
the drapes on each side of the stage. The curtain rings and ties are
orange. The decorative cross design in the center of the base is maroon,
blue and red, as are the sunflower decorations in each of the corners of
the lower panel. Punch and Judy are both wearing red and yellow hats.
Judy's face is natural pink in color, and each eye has a white cornea with
a brown iris and black pupil. She has black hair and eyebrows, and red
lips. Her dress is blue with yellow buttons and has a white collar with
blue stripes. Her coin tray is black. Punch has a tan, flesh-colored face.
The color of his hair, eyes, eyebrows and lips are identical to Judy's.
The club he so menacingly holds in his left hand is light brown. The
backdrop behind Punch and Judy is tan. The draperies are dark blue with
light blue highlights, and the tassels are red and yellow. The base plate
underneath the bank is coated with a brown, japan varnish, and the entire
back of the bank is painted red.
The action of the Punch and Judy bank is amusing and quite effective.
The long, rounded lever on the right side of the bank is pulled out,
causing Judy to turn with her tray and face the front of the bank.
Simultaneously, Punch turns away from Judy and raises his club in a
threatening manner. A coin is then placed into Judy's tray. The small
lever under the long, round lever is pressed. Punch then snaps forward,
bringing down his club, as if to strike Judy. She quickly turns toward
Punch, depositing the coin from her tray into the bank. These coins are
removed by unscrewing the base plate from the bank.
One can only really appreciate the splendor of this bank when viewed
with most of its original paint intact. Unfortunately, it is difficult to
find such a fine specimen. When one is located, it is accompanied by an
equally fine price tag!
The Punch and Judy bank has been reproduced; therefore, I am including a
base diagram to help the collector determine an original from a
reproduction (Figure 4). The recast will appear approximately one-eighth
inch smaller in width than the original.