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Automated Wood Mottoes Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine December, 2002

     Unappreciated and often overlooked are mechanical banks constructed of wood. Unfortunately, their composition appears to be the sole factor responsible for lack of popularity amongst collectors of cast iron and tin mechanical banks. In actuality, many of these mechanicals are amusing and imaginative, and quite desirable.
     The "Automated Wood Mottoes Bank" (Figure 1), an exciting new find, was recently brought to my attention. It is an intriguing example of an antique toy that was designed to teach children the wisdom of saving their pennies. The virtue of thrift was an Anglo-American philosophy that prevailed throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
     The "Mottoes Bank", as many other members of the wood mechanical group, is ingenious in design, as demonstrated by its action, and highly prized by knowledgeable collectors. In addition to our subject of discussion, other notable examples of mechanicals composed partially, or entirely, of wood include: "Barking Dog", "Watch Dog Savings Bank", "Darkey in the Chimney", "Give me a Penny," "Thrifty Scotsman", "Presto Savings Bank Mouse on Roof", "Freedman's Bank", "Freedman's Bureau", several trick drawer, disappearing coin-type money boxes, "Kick Inn", "Musical Church Bank", "Sailor Money Box", etc.
     Interestingly, the "Mottoes Bank" is also related to a category of mechanicals which, upon insertion of a coin, display either a fortune, or a proverb or an anecdote. Members of this group include: "Lucky Wheel Money Box", "Automatic Fortune Savings Bank", Fortune Horse Race "Savings Bank", "Bank of Education and Economy", "Fortune Teller Savings Bank" and "Automatic Coin Savings Bank".
     The "Automated Wood Mottoes Bank" therefore, has the distinction of combining the characteristics of both of the previously discussed categories. Action of the bank shown in Figure 1 is uncomplicated and entertaining. Initially, a large English-type penny is "pushed", forcefully, through the slot on the top of the bank. This action displaces the motto displayed through the glass window on the front of the bank, allowing for another motto to take its place.
     Figures 2 and 3 not only reveal the mechanical bank's internal mechanism, but also its original label, complete with instructions. This dualistic view is unique since it occurs with no other example in either aforementioned group.
     The label reads: "Instructions for use. Having displaced the mottoes by means of the coins open the box and take out the twelve pieces of wood on which are the mottoes, after which place in order, push back the spring and use the strip of wood to keep in position until the mottoes are placed; release the spring by taking the wood strip away and after locking, the box is again ready for use. In order to work the better, the coins should be pushed with some force." Coin removal is accomplished by opening the lid and turning the bank upside down. This allows deposited coins as well as utilized mottoes to be expelled.
     Unfortunately, due to lack of any identifying marks, the manufacturer of "Mottoes Bank" remains an enigma. However, a clue as to its country of origin appears on a motto inscribed on one of the bank's wooden plaques: "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves". Such reference to British currency assumes the possibility of manufacture in England.
     In addition to this motto, the others state: "Many a mickle makes a muckle"; "If youth but knew what ages would crave. It sure would strive to get and save"; "Fools and their money soon part"; "Tis the saving soul that reaches the goal"; "Saving is getting"; "Money makes money"; "A full purse is a good friend"; "To become rich you must save"; "Save in time and you will never have a need"; "It is never too late to save"; and, lastly, "Now open and fill me again".
     On a final note, dimensions of the "Mottoes Bank", Figure 1, are 4 1/2 inches high, 5-1/2 inches wide, and 4-1/2 inches deep.
     Acknowledgement: The unique example of "Automated Wood Mottoes Bank", Figure 1, is in the collection of Max Berry.
     Addendum: My apologies for omission of acknowledgement of the "Bear and Tree Stump Bank" featured in the October 2002 issue of Antique Toy World. The fine example shown in the article is in the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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