The Giant in Tower Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – January, 1996
Throughout history, the British Isles has been
fertile breeding ground and birthplace of many mythological creatures,
folklore and fairy tales. Characters in these tales were often fearsome
and mighty giants who were, sometimes, challenged by brave adversaries.
A particular fable told of the cunning young Cornish Jack, whose
purpose it was to win fame and fortune by matching wits with the most
gruesome of ogres. One version of this tale finds young Jack cautiously
approaching a solitary cottage at the foot of an awesome mountain. The
youth suddenly finds himself face to face with an old man who recognizes
him as the famed "Jack, the Giant Killer." The elder proceeds to reveal,
in vivid detail, the whereabouts of the cruel giant, Galligantus, who
inhabits an enchanted castle of many towers atop the overshadowing
No doubt this, as well as other fables pertaining to giants, inspired
John Harper and Company of Albion Works, Willenhall, England, to produce
the "Giant In Tower" Bank (Figure I). Registered (English Patent) on
August 13, 1892, by John Harper and Company, the bank was subsequently
offered for sale in their Fourth Edition Catalog (Figure II). The catalog
featured a black line illustration of the "Giant" Bank, with the following
designation: "No. 1406 painted 'Indian Black, Head painted only ...
25/-per dozen. And in various colors ...31/-per dozen.' "
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, John Harper and
Company was the foremost designer and manufacturer of cast-iron mechanical
banks in England. The company's variety and quality of product was to be
compared only with its American counterpart, the J. and E. Stevens Company
of Cromwell, Conn. Other mechanicals manufactured by Harper were such
notables as "Hoop-la," English "Football," "Wimbledon," English "'Spise-a-Mule,"
English "Speaking Dog," English "Jolly Nigger," "Kiltie," and "Grenadier"
(refer to Antique Toy World,
There are no casting differences and only two color variations of
"Giant In Tower," and these pertain solely to the tower. One has the
structure painted an overall glossy "Indian Black," and the other (Figure
I) is painted bright red with yellow arched doors and windows. In both
variations the giant's face and hands are black. He has white eyes with
black pupils and a red mouth. He sports a light brown shirt with yellow
suspenders and white cuffs. His club is painted a bright red color.
Action of "Giant In Tower" reflects the menacing demeanor of this
unfriendly, ominous character. A coin is inserted into the slot in the
front of the tower, causing the giant to tilt forward in a most aggressive
manner. As the coin drops into the bank, the giant returns to his upright
position. Deposits are removed by unscrewing both halves of the tower.
The "Giant In Tower" Bank is quite rare. This, combined with an
attractive and imposing appearance, credits it with being an extremely
desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
I am not aware of reproductions of "Giant In Tower." However,
simplicity of construction, as well as rarity, might inspire the creation
of a recast version. If the bank were reproduced, it would appear
approximately one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch shorter in diameter O.D.
than indicated in the base diagram (Figure III).
Acknowledgments: The superb example of the "Giant In Tower" Bank
(Figure I) is from the mechanical bank collection of Steve and Marilyn
Steckbeck. The catalog pages (Figure II) are from the collection of Mark
and Lynda Suozzi.