The Punch And Judy Bank
(Part II, A Unique Color Variation)
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – June, 1994
Surprising and enlightening is the recent
discovery of a copper, electroplated variation of the Shepard Hardware
Company's "Punch and Judy" mechanical bank (Figure I). This necessitates
an addendum to the January 1986 Antique Toy World article, "The Punch and
Judy Bank," in which was written that all "Punch and Judy" banks
manufactured by the Shepard Hardware Company were painted in the same
manner and colors as shown in Figure II.
The new find was acquired from an antique dealer residing in the
Abilene, Texas, area. He had purchased it from an elderly gentleman from
Fort Worth who recounted that the bank had been presented as a gift to his
grandfather, then a small boy in Pennsylvania.
When offered, the mechanical's appearance was bleak. It was totally
encrusted with a thick coating of dull black oxide. Only minute traces of
copper were visible through several areas underneath the base. My initial
appraisal of the bank categorized it as a 19th-century bronze foundry
pattern used to cast original "Punch and Judy" banks. However, closer
examination and a magnet soon dispelled the "pattern" theory. The bank was
not composed of bronze, but cast iron with a metallic copper coating!
I then proceeded to contact an associate who is astute on the subject
of metallurgy. My goal was to uncover as much of the original finish
remaining under its oxide shroud as possible. Within several hours of
testing, he concluded that the bank had been copper-electroplated and
oxidized during the late 19th or early 20th century. Supporting his
hypothesis was the fact that the oxide used to blacken the electroplate
was arsenic-based. He further explained that this was an archaic,
post-copper-electroplating procedure discontinued at the turn of this
century due to the mortal dangers involved in its usage. Because of its
hazardous nature, it was suggested that he, rather than I, remove the
oxide. This was accomplished by using a soft, silver-stainless steel alloy
wire brush combined with a mild polishing agent. Figure I is the
successful result of his endeavors.
Worthy of mention is that, until the discovery of the
copper-electroplated "Punch and Judy" bank, the Shepard Company was
thought to have copper-electroplated only one other mechanical bank in
their line: i.e., the "Artillery" bank (refer to Antique Toy World,
The "Punch and Judy" bank was conceived by both Peter Adams, Jr., and
Charles G. Shepard of Buffalo, N.Y. They were granted Patent number
302,039 on July 15, 1884 (Figure III). Several days later, on July 22,
1884, "Design Patent" number
15,155 (Figure IV) was also issued to Messrs.
Adams and Shepard. The additional patent was solely to protect the
external design features of their "Punch and Judy" bank.
To date, I am aware of only two color variations of the "Punch and
Judy" bank (Figures I and II), and three casting variants. These pertain
to the letters which form the words "PUNCH AND JUDY BANK" at the peak of
each bank. The mechanicals pictured in Figures I and II are referred to
as the "large letters" variation. The other two have the name "PUNCH AND
JUDY BANK" across a raised, arched ribbon in either small or medium Gothic
The action of "Punch and Judy" is quite amusing. The round plunger on
the right side of the bank is pulled out, causing Judy to turn towards the
front and Punch to raise his club in a menacing manner. A coin is placed
into Judy's tray and the small lever under the round plunger is then
pressed downward. Simultaneously, Punch lowers his club as if to strike
Judy, and she quickly turns toward him, depositing the coin into the bank.
The money is removed by unscrewing the base plate underneath the bank.
The "Punch and Judy" bank has been reproduced. Therefore, I am
including a base diagram (Figure V) to aid the collector in determining an
original example from a recast. A reproduction will appear approximately
one-eighth inch shorter along the width than indicated.
Acknowledgement: The electroplated example of the "Punch and Judy"
bank (Figure I) now resides in the superb collection of Frank and Joyce
Kidd of Portland, Ore.