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The Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1992

      Members of the primate family, specifically monkeys, were a popular subject, ofttimes utilized by nine­teenth-century manufacturers of banks and toys. Less popular, indeed, was the anthropoid ape of Africa, known as the chimpanzee. Only two mechanical banks represent members of this family of "Great Apes." These are the "Chimpanzee Bank" produced by Kyser and Rex, and the "Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee" (Figure I), subject of this article.
     The "Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee" is one of seven subjects which comprise a series of banks referred to as the Spring-Jawed Mechanicals. Other members of this unique set include an alligator, "Bonzo" the dog, a sleepy mule, a parrot, a grey kitten, and an English bulldog. Although the entire spring-jawed group is scarce, the Chimpanzee is considered one of the rarest, with possibly three or four examples known to exist in collections.
     The entire group of banks is composed of a zinc-lead alloy, commonly referred to as "pot metal." In view of its extremely low melting point, this material lends itself easily to a casting process called "slush mold­ing." This method of production entails filling a multi-sectional hollow mold with a molten solution of the alloy. As the liquefied metal cooled and solidified within the inside walls of the mold, the remaining viscous metal was quickly expelled. Once fully cooled, the mold was separated, revealing a perfectly detailed, hollow, positive image of the interior of the mold.
     This process provided the manufacturer with a two-fold benefit: it is extremely inexpensive, and the cast object is exquisitely smooth, sharp, and highly detailed. The major disadvantage is the resultant fragility of the castings. It is this inherent weakness which, most likely, accounts for the scarcity of the entire category of zinc-alloy banks, whether they be mechanical or still.
     Operation of the "Spring-Jawed Chim­panzee" is incomplex. A coin is inserted through its mouth, activating a thin, internal steel leaf spring attached to the Chimp's lower jaw. This creates a wobbly action to the jaw, which gives the illusion of our Simian friend chewing the ingested coins. The deposits are removed by undoing the small, heart-shaped "trick lock" beneath its jaw, and opening its hinged head.
     There are no casting or color variants of the "Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee." The color of the bank represented in Figure I are as follows: It is painted, overall, a tan color. Its face, hands, feet, and ears are highlighted in pink. Its eyes are orange with black pupils, and it has black eyebrows and a black nose. Its lips and tongue are painted a dark shade of pink.
     The "Chimpanzee Bank," as well as the entire Spring-Jawed series, reflect the caliber and quality of craftsmanship and artistry practiced in German bank and toy production during the turn of the century. Unfortunately, very little is known about the manufacturer or dates of production of these banks. Had it not been for the word "GERMANY" printed underneath their bases, the country of origin would also have remained an enigma. It may be assumed this lack of data pertaining to the banks was the result of a practice common to nineteenth-century German patent law. Insignificant inventions and simple toys were included in the designation of "Registered Designs" rather than true patents. These documents were mandated to be discarded after only fifteen years, sadly leaving a void for future researchers and historians of German alloy mechanical banks.
     To my knowledge, none of the Spring-Jawed series have been reproduced. However, Figure II is a contour drawing of the "Chimpanzee Bank" for the purpose of aiding the collector in determining size and scale.
     Once again, I request readers with further knowledge, and perhaps of other subjects relating to the Spring-Jawed series, to please contact this writer at P.O. Box 104, East Rockaway, New York 11518, to share information through future articles.
     Correction: (from May, 1992) Refer to the article entitled "Spring-Jawed Chim­panzee," January 1992 issue of A.T.W. It was erroneously stated that the Chimp appears as the subject of only two different mechanicals: the cast-iron "Chimpanzee" bank (Kyser and Rex) and the zinc-alloy "Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee" bank (of German manufacture). It have since been informed by a fellow mechanical bank collector, Mr. Tom Stoddard, that he is in possession of yet a third variety in which the chimp is featured. It also has a movable jaw and is composed of zinc-alloy. But since it is larger and heavier and appears to have never been painted, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the "Spring-Jawed Chimpanzee" bank.

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