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The Picture Gallery Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine February, 1996

     Toy penny banks as we are well aware, were designed and created to teach children the virtue of thrift. "A penny saved is a penny earned" was the popular maxim oft repeated in former times. Walter and Charles G. Shepard, owners of the Shepard Hardware Company, of Buffalo, N.Y., expanded upon this concept with their creation of the subject of this month's article (Figure I). Not only did "Picture Gallery" mechanical bank attempt to encourage savings, but also taught the alphabet, counting and vocabulary.
     Unfortunately, to date there is no information pertaining to the patent and/or design of "Picture Gallery." However, supposition places year of its design and manufacture in the neighborhood of 1885. Similarity to Shepard's "Punch and Judy" Bank (Figure II) insofar as operation, internal mechanism and various aspects of design (e.g., rear-section grill work) suggests the designers/inventors were Walter G. Shepard and Peter Adams, Jr.
     Action of the "Picture Gallery" is aptly described in a rare, full-color, advertising trade card, circa 1885 (Figure III): "Made wholly of Iron Highly Finished in Brilliant Colors very amusing also instructive. Figure in centre receives coin in his Hand deposits it in the Bank. All the letters of the alphabet and numbers From 1 to 26 inclusive are shown in rotation also twenty Six different animals or objects with a short word for each letter. PRICE $1.00 EACH."
     A lever behind the left side of the man (not visible) in the photograph) effects coin deposit. Another lever behind the small top window which displays the numerals (also not visible in the photograph) activates the alphabet rotation disk. Each action is accomplished independently. Deposits are removed via a square, key lock coin retainer underneath the base of the bank. Interestingly, when the letter "L" is reached during disk rotation, the word "LOCK" simultaneously appears in the right hand window, accompanied by an image of the "Picture Gallery" Bank's key lock coin retainer.
     There are no casting or color variations of the "Picture Gallery." Colors of the bank illustrated in Figure I are as follows: the entire front is painted bright red with the outer edge bordered in green. These two colors are separated by a thin yellow stripe. All of the lettering, decorative scrolls and window frames are highlighted in gold. the rotating disk is painted green with gold letters, numerals, words and objects. the man's face and hands are a pink flesh color. He has blue eyes with white corneas, black pupils, eyebrows, eyelashes and a red mouth. His jacket is dark blue, and he wears a white shirt and brown cap. Finally, the back of the disk is tan and the rear grillework is painted bright red. Typical of all Shepard mechanical banks is the regard to painted details, and "Picture Gallery" is no exception. Further, the company's reputation for line and application of color remains unsurpassed in toy manufacture to this day. Unfortunately, Shepard Hardware never undercoated its banks prior to painting. Ergo moisture, heat and the ravages of time have left countless examples with either badly flaked or denuded surfaces. On rare occasions, when an extremely fine example of any Shepard bank is offered for sale, it most assuredly is accompanied by an astronomical price tag!
     The "Picture Gallery" is large in size and a rather impressive mechanical. This, combined with its unique educational theme and action, accounts for its position as a highly desirable and popular bank amongst collectors. I am not aware of the existence of recast versions of "Picture Gallery" Bank. Figure IV is a base diagram of an original example. If a recast was attempted, it would appear approximately one eighth to one quarter of an inch O.D. shorter than indicated.
     Acknowledgements: The fine example of the "Picture Gallery" Bank shown in Figure I is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck. The mint example of the "Picture Gallery" trade card shown in Figure III is from the collection of Barry Seiden.

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