The Bucking Mule Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1989
Degradation of the Black Man for the sake of
entertainment was not uncommon, and was utilized quite effectively as a
theme for mechanical banks. The "Bucking Mule" certainly exemplifies
racism in its depiction of a black rider thrown by his mule. However,
unlike its contemporaries, the manufacturer of this bank (the Judd
Manufacturing Company of Wallingford, Connecticut) did not produce a
plethora of mechanicals which focused on bizarre, ridiculous antics of the
Negro, or, for that matter, newly immigrated groups to this country.
(Specific reference is made to J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, CT,
Shepard Hardware Company of Buffalo, NY, and Kyser & Rex Company of
Frankford, PA, who, collectively, left few minority groups unscathed.
Examples include: "Uncle Tom," "Mammy and Baby," "Butting Buffalo,"
"Uncle Remus," "Jolly Nigger," "Stump Speaker," "Darktown Battery," "Darky
Watermelon," "Dentist," "Bad Accident," "Breadwinners," "Reclining
Chinaman," "Cabin," and "Paddy and the Pig."
Unfortunately, there is a lack of information pertinent to the
inventor and date of manufacture of "Bucking Mule." The Judd Company never
actually applied for, or patented, any of their banks. However, an
approximation of the time period may be deduced by an ad for the sale of
the bank which appeared in an 1893 issue of Marshall Field and Company's
toy jobbers' catalog (Figure I). The advertisement itself read as follows:
"Colors: Copper and Lacquer .. . $3.60 per dozen, Ebony and Gold ... $4.00
per dozen." Meticulously fine casting detail and simplicity are the
attributes associated with banks manufactured by the Judd Company. To
illustrate, one may observe the carefully delineated hairs on the animals
in "Bear with Paws Around Tree" and "Bulldog Standing," while "Dog on
Turntable" and "Mosque Bank" bear testimony to the attention paid to each
detail of the bricks incised into the sides of the buildings. Simplicity
of the banks refers specifically to their method of operation. A single
lever, a nodding head, or a simple crank mechanism were all that Judd
needed to bring joy to a small child as the coin was deposited into the
Operation of the "Bucking Mule" is initiated by pulling both the mule
and his ill-fated rider back along the length of the base. A coin is then
placed into the slot at the front end of the track. A slight lift to the
mule's tail results in its jutting forward, causing the darky to fall,
head first, over the front of the mule, with his forehead slamming the
coin into the bank. These coins may be removed by unscrewing the entire
base of the bank from its sides.
Most of the mechanicals produced by Judd were painted primarily in
metallic colors and various japan varnishes. Their palette included a
shiny ebony finish, a purple lacquer, a "fancy" brown japan finish, gold
and copper metallic, and an occasional touch of white for an eye or red
for a mouth. Examples of Judd banks do exist which differ from the
aforementioned by use of multi colors. Some might have been
factory-painted but most were the whim of an early collector. Multicolored
Judd banks should be closely scrutinized when contemplating a purchase.
The "Bucking Mule" bank pictured in Figure II is painted entirely in
a glossy, ebony finish. The man's shirt is red and his pants are yellow.
This color scheme, with its "touch" of color, removes the bank from the
"ordinary" category and designates it as a rare example.
Unfortunately, and understandably, the simplicity of the casting and
operating mechanism abetted the practice of abundant reproduction. Thus,
exceedingly scarce banks such as "Bucking Mule," "Boy and Bulldog,"
"Circus Ticket Collector," "Peg Leg Beggar," and "Bear and Tree Stump" are
regarded as being quite common. In truth, few collections can boast of
all-original, complete examples of these banks.
Reproductions are easily detected since, unlike the original Judd
banks, they are crude and pebbly in appearance and lack the fine, sharp
detail indicative of the original.
Figure III is a base diagram of an original "Bucking Mule." A
reproduced version would not necessarily appear smaller than the base
diagram, since the original patterns were often used to cast many of the
"fakes." The most accurate method of detection is the texture of the
surface and lack of definition and fine, sharp detail. Needless to say,
the scarcity of original examples reflects accordingly on the price of
To conclude, it may be of interest to grade the entire line of Judd
banks according to their rarity. In descending order are: "Giant
Standing," "Circus Ticket Collector," "Peg Leg Beggar," "Bucking Mule,"
"Boy and Bulldog," "Mosque," "Bear and Tree Stump," "Bulldog Standing,"
"Butting Goat," "Gem," "Snap-it," and "Dog on Turntable."