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The Wishbone Bank: A Pattern
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 1999

          The pursuit for unique and unusual antique mechanical banks is a quest shared by many a collector. In addition, most sophisticated and devoted enthusiasts are pleased to discover not only these fascinating "penny gobblers" but any related historical data which may identify inventors, manufacturers, etc., as well as other information.
     This article concerns itself with one such related item, namely a pattern* for a mechanical bank that had never been produced. Entitled the "Wishbone Bank" (Figure 1), this pattern has been attributed to renowned nineteenth century master bank designer, Mr. Charles A. Bailey of Cobalt, Connecticut, based upon the following information. More than fifty years ago, noted historian, writer, and collector, Mr. F. H. Griffith, was engaged in research involving Charles Bailey and his then defunct foundry in Cobalt. Mr. Griffith inadvertently uncovered an extremely important find relating to some of Bailey's earliest creations. Tucked away for almost a century in a storage area lay disassembled lead patterns for two unproduced mechanical banks. When Mr. Griffith ultimately assembled them, he was, no doubt, delighted to behold yet an additional pair of Bailey masterpieces, i.e. the aforementioned "Wishbone" pattern (Figure 1) and the "Old Aunt Dina and the Fairy" mechanical bank pattern.
     Since both the "Wishbone" and "Aunt Dina" patterns were never used by Bailey for replication, it has been supposed that they were designed at his Cobalt factory immediately prior to entering employment with the J. and E. Stevens Company in 1880 as their chief toy and mechanical bank pattern maker and designer. It is further speculated that, under the terms of this position, Stevens required Bailey to cease all related, non-company endeavors.
     After Mr. Griffith assembled and painted his "Wishbone" pattern he sold it to pioneer collector, Mrs. Mary H. Gerken of Allison Park, Pennsylvania. Several years later Mrs. Gerken sold it to its present owner, Mr. Steve Steckbeck.
     There is no doubt that the "Wishbone" is the brainchild of Charles Bailey. Its highly-detailed, free-flowing floral motifs enrobing the delicately cast, paw-foot base is most reminiscent of one of his later J. and E. Stevens classics, i.e. "Darkey with the Watermelon" bank (refer to Antique Toy World, December, 1998). The "Wishbone", as well as most other Bailey creations, exhibited his propensity for meticulous craftsmanship, wit, and bizarre subject matter.
     Action of this "bank" is appropriate to the subject and quite surprising. Both Mammy and the dapperly-attired black man are set upright (as in Figure 1). A coin is then placed into the notch at the crotch of the wishbone. When the lever behind the man is depressed, simultaneously the wishbone separates, both figures fall backward, and the coin rolls into a vertical slot in Mammy's apron. Deposits are removed by unscrewing the oval base plate underneath Mammy's dress.
     Shortly after the "Wishbone" was discovered one brass and several lead duplicates were created. These were also assembled and painted. However, their crude castings easily distinguish the beautifully-detailed original pattern from the "phonies". Nonetheless, I am including a base diagram (Figure 2) of the original "Wishbone" pattern (Figure 1) to aid in determining size and scale.
     * NOTE: A mechanical bank pattern is not a bank, but rather a highly-detailed, hand-finished model. It is used by a manufacturer or foundry to create molds in order to generate mass-produced duplicates.
     ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The "Wishbone" Bank (Figure 1) is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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