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The World's Fair Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – February, 1989

      October 12th is the date on which the people of the United States traditionally celebrate Columbus's discovery of America. While historians agree that it was the explorer Amerigo Vespucci who first set foot upon the "New World," they do concede that this would not have been possible had Columbus not set sail from Spain in 1492. The first celebration, on a truly grand scale, took place in 1892 (Figure I) and culminated in the Columbian World's Fair Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1893. The Fair was attended by millions of persons. Manufacturers, recognizing the opportunity to profit, sought licensing from the World's Fair Committee to market their souvenirs. Among the items they produced for the public were clothing, food, pamphlets, toiletries, medals, coins, clocks, watches, china, crystal, silver, toys, and the subject of this article ... the World's Fair Bank (Figure II).
     On April 15, 1893, an application for patent was filed by Charles A. Bailey, of Cromwell, Connecticut, assignor to the J. and E. Stevens Company, also of Cromwell. On October 10th of that year, Patent Number 506,619 was granted to the aforementioned parties. Comparison of patent drawings (Figure III) to final product (Figure II) indi­cates close adherence to original design. Interestingly, no mention is ever made of Christopher Columbus or the World's Fair in the drawings or text of the patent papers.
     The words, "PAT APLD FOR," beneath the figure of Columbus (Figure II) clearly indicate the bank was offered for sale prior to the issuance of a patent. Although perhaps inapplicable to the World's Fair Bank, it appears to have been common practice among early toy manufacturers to first market their toy or bank; if the item became popular, and, therefore, profitable to produce, patent protection was then sought. Utilization of the words, "Pat Apld For" or "Pat Pending" was apparently effective in deterring other manufacturers from imitating designs.
     There are two known casting and color variations of the World's Fair Bank. The casting variant concerns itself only with the words, "WORLD'S FAIR BANK," which may or may not be inscribed in large, raised, block letters across the side of the bank. Those which bear this inscription were obviously sold during the time of the Columbus World's Fair Exposition. When the Fair ended, the J. and E. Stevens Company removed the words, "World's Fair Bank" and continued to market it as the "Columbus Bank" (Figure IV). (Incidentally, the name "Columbus" continued to be impressed into the base plate underneath the bank.) Neither variation influences the bank's actual monetary value for the collector.
     All production World's Fair Banks are painted gold, and highlighted in bronze, silver, and silver with a green tint. A few banks exist that are multicolored. These were hand painted by Charles A. Bailey himself and were given to close friends and relatives on special occasions. Understandably, they are able to command a significantly higher price than the more commonly painted gold version. Caution should be exercised when purchasing one of these unique banks, since several multi-colored forgeries do exist.
     Operation of the World's Fair Bank initiates with placement of a coin into the slot directly in front of Columbus. The lever on the left side of the bank is then pressed downward. Simultaneously, the coin drops into the bank, Columbus raises his right arm in a benevolent gesture, and the log snaps upward, revealing the figure of an Indian bearing a peace pipe. The money is retrieved by removing a round Stevens coin retainer under the base.
     Typical of each Bailey-designed bank was the meticulous attention paid to every facet of its surface. The "World's Fair" was no exception, as revealed by the plethora of floral and leaf patterns utilized throughout. In addition, both the gracefully executed figures of Columbus and the Indian, and the richly sculptured scenes of the buffalo hunt on one side of the bank and the Santa Maria on the other, all pay tribute to the talents of one of the most renowned mechanical bank designers in the history of toy manufacture.
     The World's Fair Bank is quite attractive when in su­perb, complete, and unbroken condition. Unfortunately, due to its fragility, this is not often the case, and, therefore, a fine, all-original example will command a high price. Since several rather crude reproductions do exist, I am including a base diagram (Figure V) to aid in differen­tiating between an original and a recast. The recast will appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter along the base than indicated.

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