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Preacher in the Pulpit Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 2004

     Mechanical bank designers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were inundated with subjects and a wealth of ideas. Their products reflected timely and popular themes such as childhood activities, circus acts, wild and exotic animals, architectural structures, etc.
     Interestingly, one topic that appears sparse in the number of resultant mechanicals is that of a theological or religious nature. In addition to one such member of this group and the subject of this article, "Preacher In The Pulpit Bank" (Figure 1), other notables include "Jonah and the Whale Bank" (Shepard Hardware Company), "Church Bank, Woman With Bible" (Gebruder Bing), "Tin, Musical Church Bank", plays Silent Night (Karl Rohreseitz), "Musical Church Bank", wood (manufacturer unknown), "Bird on Roof" (J. and E. Stevens), and "Mosque Bank" (Judd Manufacturing Company).
     "Preacher In The Pulpit Bank", Figure 1, was assumedly invented by Arthur C. Gould of Brookline, Massachusetts. Patent number 180,574 (Figure 2) was issued to him for a mechanical bank on August 1, 1876. The drawings portrayed therein illustrate an almost precise duplication of the patented male figure. However, the patent papers indicate an articulated arm holding its hat in hand, and a coin receptacle depicted as a money safe.
     This same male figure had been utilized in another mechanical, namely the "Bank Teller Bank" (to be discussed within a future article. Action of this figure is similar to the "Preacher" and was also produced sans hat. The only conspicuous differences between the two banks are the design of their "desks" and that the right arm of the "Preacher" is raised as if to acknowledge a higher power, while the arm of the "Bank Teller" is positioned by his side.
     Both banks operate in precisely the same manner. A coin is placed upon the tray held in the man's left hand. The weight of the coin causes his arm to lower. The offering then slides from the tray and into the appropriate slot. As the arm lowers, the man's head nods in a forward gesture. After deposition, the head and arm return to their original positions, as seen in Figure 1. Although simple in design, this mechanical's method of coin removal is somewhat complicated and precarious. A small screw is removed from the upper left corner on the back of the pulpit. This allows the rear section to fall inward, permitting deposits to be shaken free.
     In addition to uncertainty pertaining to its inventor, to date, there is no information relating to the manufacturer of "Preacher In The Pulpit". However, several design peculiarities, internal mechanics, and casting similarities suggest the mechanical was produced by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut.
     As an aside, the name "Preacher In The Pulpit" was bestowed upon the bank by early collectors. The figure was acknowledged to be a preacher based upon the position of its right hand, suggesting the deliverance of a sermon. In addition, the figure stands behind what is seemingly recognized as a pulpit.
     "Preacher In The Pulpit" is an extremely rare mechanical, with fewer than a handful of examples know to exist in collections. Its rarity may perhaps, be attributed to such factors as complicated coin removal, fragile castings, and limited production.
     I am not aware of any casting variations of "Preacher In The Pulpit Bank", but I have identified two color differences. Both address themselves to the curved front and side panels of the pulpit. These may be painted either red, or green, as seen in Figure 1. All other facets of the bank are painted in similar hues.
     There has not been, to my knowledge, any attempt at reproducing "Preacher In The Pulpit Bank". However, in view of its extreme rarity and value, the possibility of such future efforts cannot be ignored. Figure 3 is a base diagram of an original example. A recast version would appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
     On a final note Before considering purchase of a hitherto unknown example of this mechanical, investigation of provenance and consultation with an expert would be most prudent.
     Acknowledgement: The fine example "Preacher In The Pulpit Bank", Figure 1, is from the mechanical bank collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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