The Hubley Trick Monkey Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – November, 1992
Long Gone is the era of the organ grinder who,
with his precocious monkey, performed on street corners. My mother would
often reminisce about her youth and growing up in an early 20th century
America. She would describe, with much nostalgia, the joy and excitement
of the neighborhood children who eagerly gathered after hearing those very
first notes heralding the appearance of these street corner entertainers.
Their small fists, so tightly clenched, concealed a single penny destined
to be retrieved by the pleading, outstretched paw of the vendor's greedy
Of the numerous antique cast iron mechanical banks which represent
the entertaining duo, none is as realistic and accurate in depiction as
the "Trick Monkey Bank" (Figure I). This mechanical was patented by Mr.
Daniel Cooke of Camden, NJ, on June 2, 1891 (Figure II). However, as
evidenced by the final production bank in Figure I, there appears to
have been little adherence to Cooke's patent design, other than
maintaining its theme and cast of characters. Of interest is the fact
that another of Daniel Cooke's patents (Figure III) was utilized solely as
a source of animation and activation for the "Trick Monkey Bank," and was
designed initially for his "Trick Dog Bank" (refer to "Trick Dog Bank,"
Antique Toy World, November, 1988).
The "Trick Monkey Bank" was manufactured by the Hubley Manufacturing
Co. of Lancaster, PA. Founded by John Hubley in 1894, the company became
one of the leading, and final, cast iron bank manufacturers in the world.
It wasn't until the turn of the century that Hubley introduced their line
of mechanicals, beginning with "Trick Dog" and "Trick Monkey" banks. This
was followed, at a much later date, by their "Trick Elephant Bank." Figure
IV is a page from a 1937 Hubley catalog illustrating these three very
colorful and animated mechanicals. A separate wholesale price list
included with this catalog offered the trio to stores at the price of
$7.50 per dozen.
There are no casting differences of the "Trick Monkey Bank," and only
two minor color variants. These pertain solely to its base, which may be
painted either dark green or light green. In either case, the remainder of
the bank's color scheme is consistent. The colors of the bank shown in
Figure I are as follows: the base is light green with the words "MONKEY
BANK" highlighted in gold. The flanged edge at the bottom of the base is
also painted gold. The organ grinder sports a bright red jacket and hat
with a yellow band. His pants are yellow, and he wears black shoes. His
hands and face are painted a pink, flesh color. His hair, eyes, eyebrows
and moustache are black. The organ is cocoa-brown, with gold bands. The
monkey is painted an overall cocoa-brown. It wears a yellow jacket, red
pants and a blue hat. Its eyes are black and the mouth is red. The fulcrum
to which the monkey is connected to the base is red, and the chain leash
joining the monkey to its master is brass.
The action of the "Trick Monkey Bank" is amusing and uncomplicated. A
coin is placed in the monkey's mouth. The lever behind the monkey is then
pressed. Simultaneously, the monkey springs forward, depositing the coin
into the slot atop the organ. Deposits are removed by opening the large,
square key lock coin retainer underneath the base.
The "Trick Monkey Bank" is considered to be quite common. However,
due to its amusing action and attractive appearance, it obviously gained
great popularity among children. Therefore, most examples are either well
played with and/or broken. When a "Trick Monkey Bank" does surface in
extremely fine mechanical and paint condition, it is usually accompanied
by a premium price.
Reproductions do exist. Figure V is a base diagram of an original.
Dimensions of a recast will appear one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch
shorter in length than indicated.
Note: My thanks to Mr. Julian Thomas of Thomas Toys, Inc., Fenton,
MI, for his help in providing information and catalog pages pertaining to
the Hubley Manufacturing Co.
Refer to Antique Toy World,
(from June, 1993) The "Trick Monkey" Bank. I
have been informed of yet a third color variation of this bank. It has a
reddish brown base, rather than the more usual light or dark green
versions. This mechanical resides in the Frank Kidd collection.