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Mechanical Bank Patterns
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 1998

     The avid collector of mechanical banks appears to have developed an indisputable thirst for knowledge. Prominent is the heightened interest in research of historical documentation relating to design, manufacture, and sale of these money-saving devices.
     However, appreciation and awareness of other important aspects of the hobby have extended the list of collectibles to include such items as patent papers, trade cards, ephemera, wooden packing boxes, etc. In this regard, a growing number of mechanical bank enthusiasts have expressed their desire to obtain as much information relating to their "favorites" as possible. Many of the aforementioned have been topics for discussion in previous articles. This month's subject is yet another facet in the world of mechanicals, namely bank patterns and their utilization in the manufacturing process.
     The inception of all antique mechanical banks was sparked by an idea. This idea was translated into a conceptual linear sketch. The rendering was then presented to an industrial designer who worked with a pattern maker in order to translate it into an actual working model.
     Construction of the final pattern originated with the creation of a highly-detailed wood model, integrating all of the elements of the intended mechanical bank. These wooden parts were then used to produce a sand mold into which molten lead was poured, thus creating an exact "working" lead duplicate of the wood pattern. This lead pattern was enhanced and detailed to an even greater extent than its wood counterpart. After careful, painstaking refinements were made to the completed lead pattern, it also was used to create an additional highly-detailed sand mold into which molten brass was poured.
     The internal mechanism and external details of the resultant brass model, or pattern, were further refined. It was this refined, brass duplicate (Figure 1) that became the "master" pattern, lending its usage and likeness to all future cast iron mechanical banks.
     Brass was the material of choice in the final pattern since its inherent soft, and thus pliable, nature lent itself to finely executed detailing. In addition, it is quite durable, being able to withstand greater usage and abuse than either wood or lead. It was a brass pattern similar to that in Figure 1 which sired the beautifully crafted cast iron "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest Bank"* (Figure 2).
     The above-mentioned was designed by Charles A. Bailey and manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company (see catalog page, Figure 3), both of Cromwell, Connecticut. Worthy of mention is the fact that Mr. Bailey was the most celebrated pattern maker and mechanical bank designer of his time. Close examination of many of his patterns (Figure 1) reveals an eloquent grace and beauty likened only to a fine 19th century Viennese bronze. This, combined with its extremely rare status (i.e. having served as one of the few models used to create thousands of cast iron clones ) have made the quest for mechanical bank patterns a preoccupation of many a collector.
     *Note: For further information on "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest Bank," refer to my article in Antique Toy World, June 1991.
     ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Both "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest" brass pattern (Figure 1) and "Boy Robbing Bird's Nest Bank" (Figure 2) are from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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