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The Turtle Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – June, 1993

      Inexhaustible and abundant resources have been Mother Nature's invaluable contribution throughout the ages. This Grand Dame has supplied rich material for the inspiration of man to recreate in her image. Nineteenth and twentieth-century mechanical bank designers and manufacturers were no exception. Their works abounded with birds, rabbits, cats, dogs, frogs, elephants, and the like.
     Sadly, one creature, namely the turtle, seemed almost to have been ignored. Had it not been for the "Turtle Bank," Figure I, this distinguished member of the reptilian class may have remained neglected in the world of mechanical banks. Its designer was M. Elizabeth Cook, a renowned and celebrated sculptress of her day. The bank's graceful lines and simplistic design bear testimony to Ms. Cook's craft and skill.
     Interestingly, and as previously mentioned, the "Turtle Bank" has been the lone mechanical produced to feature this fascinating creature. It was but one of a group of four mechanicals designed by Ms. Cook, and subsequently produced by the Kilgore Manufacturing Company of Westerville, Ohio. Kilgore referred to the group as both "Toytown Workers Group of Animal Banks" and the "Thrifty-Four," and both terms were used interchangeably. Members of the group consisted of "Flop Ears," the rabbit; "Jug-O-Rum," the frog; "Blinky," the owl (refer to Antique Toy World articles: April 1989, January 1990, May 1990, and December 1991); and the subject of this article, "Pokey," the turtle.
     Unfortunately, no information pertaining to patent has been located. The determination of date of manufacture and sale of "Thrifty-Four" as sometime between 1920 and 1934 was based upon original Kilgore packaging, toy catalogs, and advertisements.
     The "Turtle Bank" has the distinction of not only being the rarest amongst its group, but also one of the rarest in the entire mechanical bank category. This virtue might easily be explained by the fact that, during the period of its manufacture, the Kilgore Company was experiencing a great deal of difficulty with "Pokey" involving an internal malfunction. This resulted in the removal of the bank from the assembly line. The few examples which were in working condition were distributed amongst the employees, gratis.
     Unlike most cast-iron mechanical banks which were packaged and sold in individual wooden boxes, the penny-gobbling group of four was packaged in small, cardboard containers. This was due, most likely, to the minuscule size of the banks. The following is an inscription on the sides of the boxes housing "Flop-Ears" and "Jug-O-Rum":

          "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 hops real slow."

     I am aware of the existence of only those original boxes which contained "Jug-O-Rum" and "Flop-Ears." If any reader has knowledge of containers which might have housed "Blinky" and "Pokey," notification would be appreciated. Write: Post Office Box 104, East Rockaway, New York 11518.
     There are neither casting nor color variants of the "Turtle Bank." The colors, as shown in Figure I, are as follows: Pokey's legs and shell are painted a glossy black. Its eyes are white with black pupils, and its mouth is orange with a light blue underjaw. The outside perimeter beneath its shell is orange with light blue splotches. Pokey's base is painted yellow-green, with muddy orange and black highlights.
     Operation of the "Turtle Bank" is uncom­plicated. A coin is pressed into the slot at the top of its shell. This causes the head to extend approximately one-half of an inch. As the coin drops into the bank, the head returns to the position seen in Figure I. Removal of deposits is achieved by unlocking a bright, nickel-plated coin retainer underneath the base.
     To my knowledge, the Kilgore four have not been reproduced. Nevertheless, Figure II represents a base diagram of an original example of "Pokey." If a reproduction were to surface, it would appear approximately one-sixteenth to one-eighth of an inch shorter along the base than indicated.
     On a final note — and particularly for those readers who are nature lovers — the "Turtle Bank" is a rendition of the American eastern painted turtle.
     Acknowledgments: The mint example of "Pokey" (Figure I) resides in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
     Once again, I would like to thank my wife, Linda, for the invaluable aid she provides in writing and editing these articles.

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