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The U.S. Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine June, 1996

     Several mechanical banks are distinguished by their obscure or inexplicable subject matter. Their irrelevance is puzzling and we ponder the designers' reasons for creation.
     An example is the "U.S. Bank" (Figure I), wherein the comically portrayed faces of a black man and a black dog are seen peering through the windows of a bank building (Figure II). Interpretation, other than racial, has eluded detection since there is scant documentation pertaining to the "U.S. Bank," including its designer and manufacturer. Had it not been for the recent discovery of a patent on a toy "safe" bank, i.e. Number D5,494 (Figure III), all aspects of this mechanical's history would have remained an enigma.
     The patent of a Mr. Anthony M. Smith of Brooklyn, New York, reads: "The novelty and distinctive characters of my design is the application of the door to a toy safe, in combination with the niche and figure of a watchman, as shown in the drawing...". Although Mr. Smith made no reference to any mechanical bank, the similarity between the niche and watchman in his patent to that of the "U.S. Bank" leaves little doubt as to the designer of that particular facet of the mechanical.
     Several collectors attribute production of the "U.S. Bank" to the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, based upon a few similar design characteristics. However, my belief is that, based upon several casting, color and design similarities, the bank's manufacturer may possibly have been the Kyser & Rex Company of Frankford, Pennsylvania. The most compelling arguments against the J. & E. Stevens theory are the notable omission of the infamous Stevens' undercoat paint, and the absence of the company's patented round or sliding coin retainers. Needless to say, only the disclosure of further documentation will establish the true identity of the bank's manufacturer.
     There are two minor casting variations of the "U.S. Bank." One has a small ledge cast under the coin slot, while the other has none (see Figure I). There are no significant color differences. (Note the photograph in Figure I, wherein the color of the side walls, sections of the roof and the base appear to be black. These are actually painted a deep blue.)
     Action of the "U S Bank" is both simplistic and surprising. Firstly, the white porcelain-topped plunger is depressed, exposing the coin slot and faces of the man and dog (Figure II). The coin is then deposited by inserting it through the slot. When the plunger is released, the slot closes and the faces of the man and dog are once again veiled. Deposits are removed by unscrewing the slotted screw, which also has the function of holding the entire bank together, and is located underneath the base.
     The "U.S. Bank" is one of the rarest and is the largest member in the architectural mechanical bank category. Finding an all-original example in superb paint condition, with no broken or replaced parts, could prove a challenge to the most advanced collector.
     I am not aware of the existence of reproductions of the "U.S. Bank." Figure IV is a base diagram of an original example. If a recast were attempted, it would appear approximately one-quarter inch smaller O.D. in width than indicated.
     Acknowledgement: The fine example of the "U.S. Bank" shown in Figure I is from the collection of Don and Betty Jo Heim.

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