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The Organ Bank
(With Monkey, Boy and Girl)

by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1986

     If ever a bank was designed with the thought of entertaining a child, it would certainly be the "Organ Bank With Monkey, Boy and Girl." One of a series of Kyser and Rex mechanicals whose subject is a monkey atop an organ, this one also captures the charm of the nineteenth-century street organ grinders. What parent of that era could resist the adorable antics of the monkey with his outstretched paw, pleading for pennies insignificant payment for the smiles he brought to the faces of their children. No other toy manufacturer was to equal Kyser and Rex for the array of organ and monkey toy banks which they produced.
     On June 13, 1882, both 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" (Figure 1). These patent papers differ from the "Organ Bank With Monkey, Boy and Girl" in that they display a large monkey with a small dog to its right, and small cat to its left, instead of the boy and girl figures, as shown in the photograph of the bank in Figure 2. The information, "Pat. June 13, 1882," is cast into the rear side of the bank.
     Animation of the "Organ, Monkey, Boy and Girl Bank" is achieved by placing a coin upon the round tray which is held by the monkey's outstretched paw. The crank is then turned; simultaneously, both boy and girl revolve; bells begin to chime, and the monkey lowers his tray to deposit the coin within the bank, tipping his hat in a gesture of courtesy. The coins are removed by way of a square key lock coin trap in the underside of the bank. The action of the "Organ, Monkey, Boy and Girl Bank" is aptly described in an advertisement which appeared in an 1892 Marshall Field and Co. wholesaler's catalog (Figure 3). "It has a very sweet chime of bells, which sound when the handle is turned, and the monkey deposits all coins in the bank, and politely raises his cap, while the figures at his side revolve, producing a pleasing effect. Packed one in a wooden box." Incidentally, in 1892, this particular mechanical bank sold for the price of $8.00 per dozen!
     The "Organ Bank With Monkey, Boy and Girl" has several casting and design variations. One pertains to the number of internal bells used to perform the ringing and chiming sounds. Some banks utilize two bells, while others have three. Another modification involves the crank handle whereby it is located either to the left or right side of the bank. Another, more subtle, difference concerns itself with the small figure of the girl. She may or may not have an open space between her knees. These variations neither add to nor detract from the bank's monetary value.
     There are also several color differences. The bank pictured in Figure 2 has the organ finished in dark brown japan varnish. Painted gold are the organ pipes, the square rectangles above and below the pipes, the lattice work on the left and right sides of the bank, and the round tray the monkey holds in his right paw. The sheet music on the front of the bank is white with black markings. The boy has pink flesh-colored hands and a pink face with black eyes and a red mouth. His hat is blue, as is the round pedestal he stands upon. He sports a yellow shirt and red pants. The bar he's holding above his head is painted gold. The girl has a pink flesh-colored face, hands and legs. Her hair and eyes are black and her mouth is red. She holds a gold tambourine above her head, and she wears a yellow blouse with a red skirt. The pedestal upon which she stands is blue. The monkey sits upon a square red base. His head, paws and feet are painted chocolate brown. The corneas of his eyes are white with black pupils, and his mouth is painted red. His cap is red and yellow, and he sports a blue jacket with yellow buttons, a white collar and white cuffs, and his trousers are painted yellow.
     Other color variations may find the three figures painted in combinations of red, yellow, and blue. Once again, it is the overall condition and rarity of a bank which determines its value and not any one particular paint variation.
     The disproportionate sizes of the monkey, boy, and girl give the bank a primitive appearance, a feature which many collectors, including myself, find quite interesting and appealing. As with all Kyser and Rex banks, meticulous care had been given to both casting detail and paint decoration.
     The "Organ, Monkey, Boy and Girl" is not considered rare, but locating one in "perfect" condition, with superb paint, may prove quite a challenge to the collector. Most often, when this bank is found, it is sadly in need of repair, with parts of figures either missing or broken. The Organ bank has been reproduced; therefore, I am including a base diagram (Figure 4) to illustrate the dimension of an original. A recast bank will appear approximately one-eighth of an inch smaller in size due to shrinkage of the cast iron during the cooling process.
     Correction: In the article entitled, "Organ Bank (Miniature)," which appeared in the September 1985 issue of Antique Toy World, it was erroneously stated: "a medium-sized organ bank, with a single figure of a monkey holding a tambourine. " It should have read: "a medium-sized organ bank, with a single figure of a monkey holding a round tray."

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