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Patronize the Blind Man and His Dog
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – December, 1988

     Charity: "that disposition of heart which inclines men
     to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good."
           — Webster's Dictionary

     Defined by Webster and so aptly exemplified by William H. Lotz, of Chicago, Illinois, is the "Pat­ronize the Blind Man and His Dog" mechanical bank. Lotz, creator of the aforementioned, was granted patent number 200,402 for his design and invention on February 19, 1878. The philosophical attributes of charity and thrift were clearly stated in the patent papers (Figure 1) which read: "F, represents the image of a kneeling man stretching forth his hands as if begging charity."
     The assumption of instantaneous success for this representation of so humble and idealistic a subject was not unlikely. However, the relatively few surviving examples of the "Patronize the Blind Man and His Dog" bank appear to contradict the possibility of appealing to parents and children of that era. Perhaps, one may theorize, the depiction of a sightless beggar was too morbid a subject for a toy designed specifically for young children. Or, possibly, since the bank is extremely fragile, most examples may have been broken and discarded. Unfortunately, with the lack of information currently available, we may only speculate as to the reasons for the rarity of this most unusual mechanical.
     The bank was ultimately manufactured by the J. and E.
Stevens Company, of Cromwell, Connecticut. By comparing the patent drawing in Figure 1 to the final production bank of Figure 2, it is apparent that the Stevens Company deviated significantly from Lotz's original design. As an example, Lotz's design did not portray the beggar as blind. Several years ago I had the opportunity to examine the original patent model for this bank. Totally constructed from flat sheet brass, it bore little resemblance to the final three-dimensional production bank with which we are familiar.
     The "Patronize the Blind Man and His Dog" was first advertised in a late nineteenth-century J. and E. Stevens toy jobbers catalog as the "Faithful Dog Bank" (Figure 3).
     The action of the bank is ingenious and intriguing: a coin is placed between the beggar's hands; a radial-arm lever on the back of the bank, which is attached to the dog's body, is then pushed forward. The dog automatically opens his mouth in order to accept and grasp the coin. He then travels along the arched track, dropping the money into the circular doorway of the small peaked roof building. These deposited coins are retrieved by removal of a small, round patented Stevens coin retainer underneath the base.
     There are no casting variations of the "Patronize the Blind Man" bank, but there are two color variations. One has a yellow insert with red lettering on the front panel of the bank, and the other has a light blue insert with dark blue letters. The "yellow" variant displays a brown dog with a yellow collar. The peaked roof, arched rail and base are also painted brown. The beggar wears a brown jacket with a blue collar. His pants are blue and he has a brown cap with a yellow bandana covering his eyes.
     The other color version, as shown in Figure 2, has a powder blue insert with dark blue letters. The dog is painted black with a red collar, while the peaked roof, arched rail and base are a dark blue. The figure of the beggar wears a blue jacket with a brown collar and brown pants. His cap is blue, and he has a brown bandana over his eyes. In both variations the beggar has pink flesh-colored hands and face with a red mouth. His shoes are painted black. The facade (with the exception of the insert) and back of the bank are painted brick red, with the addition of white mortar lines appearing only on the front.
To my knowledge the bank has never been reproduced. Nevertheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure 4) to aid the collector in determining size and scale. In the event a reproduction should surface, it would possibly appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter along the base than indicated in the accompanying diagram.

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