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The Frog on Rock Bank

by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – December, 1991

      Nature in its creative and splendiferous fashion, provided the inspiration for several nineteenth century designers of mechanical banks. Depictions of amphibians are abundant, since obviously, what creature could possess a more appropriate receptacle for coin gobbling than the cavernous-mouthed frog. Among the mechanicals utilizing amphibians are: "Professor Pug Frog's Great Bicycle Feat," "Frog on Round Base," "Chief Big Moon," "Snake, Frog in Pond," "Flip the Frog," "Frog on Arched Track," "Goat, Frog and Old Man," "Initiating Bank, First Degree," "Two Frogs," "Toad on Stump," and the subject of this article, "Frog on Rock" (Figure I).
     The "Frog on Rock" bank is but one of a group of four mechanical banks designed by M. Elizabeth Cook of Ohio. Ms. Cook was a highly-acclaimed artist and sculptress of her time. The sensitivity and simplistic qualities evident in the banks' designs bear testimony to her extraordinary talent. In addition to "Frog on Rock" (originally christened "Jug-O-Rum," the frog), the group of banks included "Pokey," the turtle, "Flop Ears," the rabbit, and "Blinky," the owl. "Blinky" is the only bank of the aforementioned to have had a variation: i.e. the coin slot is located either in its head or the end of the book under its wing. Worthy of mention at this time is the fact that "Pokey," the turtle, is not only the rarest of the four, but it has the distinction of being one of the rarest in the entire category of mechanical banks.
     The banks presently under discussion were produced by the Kilgore Manufacturing Co. of Westerville, OH. They were originally referred to collectively in Kilgore advertisements and catalogs as "The Thrifty Four" and "The Toytown Workers Group." Unfortunately, to date, no patent information has surfaced. However pertinent data obtained through period catalogs suggests manufacture of "The Thrifty Four" occurred sometime between 1920 and 1934.
     Interestingly, most mechanical banks of that era were packaged individually in sturdy wooden boxes due to their size, weight and complexity. The "Thrifty Four" were also packaged individually but, due to their minute size, were placed into small cardboard containers as pictured in Figure II (from the collection of Greg Zemenick).
     The box housing "Frog on Rock" or, as it was originally named, "Jug‑O-Rum," has the following poem inscribed on its side:

          Flop-Ears the Rabbit hops around
          Lifting his ears for every sound
          He sees Blinky the Owl, high in an Oak
          And hears the Frog, Jug-O-Rum croak,
          And wonders if Pokey, the turtle, so slow
          Can catch up with him, if he keeps real slow.

     The front of the box, beneath the illustration of the frog, contains the following verse: Says old Frog Jug-O-Run/Save money and have some.
     Activation of "Jug-O-Rum" is achieved by pressing the small lever under its chin. This opens its mouth in order to accept de­posits. Upon release of the lever, the jaw closes, securing the coins within. Coin removal is accomplished by removing the cast iron key-lock coin retainer underneath the base. Original coin retainers were man­ufactured both brightly nickel-plated and unplated.
     There are neither casting nor color variations of the "Frog on Rock." The colors of the bank illustrated in Figure I are as follows: its body is dark green. It has black lips and its eyes are painted white, outlined in black with black pupils. The webs of its feet are bright orange, as is its lower jaw. "Jug-O-Rum" is perched upon a black rock, which is highlighted with red.
     When displayed, the gem-like coloration of "Frog on Rock," as well as the other banks in the Kilgore series, are extraordinarily attractive and appealing.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproductions of "Toytown Workers Group." Nevertheless, the base diagram of "Frog on Rock" (Figure III) will aid the collector in determining size and scale. A recast would, most likely, appear approximately one-sixteenth of an inch shorter in length than indicated.

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