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Bank Teller Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine November, 2004

     Our subject of discussion, this article, is a most noteworthy and significant member of the mechanical bank community. The "Bank Teller Bank", seen in Figure 1, may also distinguish itself as a product of the evolutionary process.
     The pictured mechanical (Figure 1) is attributed to one Arthur C. Gould of Brookline, Massachusetts. In August of 1876, Gould was granted Patent Number 180,574 for his creation which was actually based upon an earlier concept and design by a Mr. John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts. Hall invented the very first commercially produced cast iron mechanical bank. On December 21, 1869 he was granted a patent for what was to be entitled the "Hall's Excelsior Bank". His was an unusual and unique invention, that of a structure in the form of a savings bank building, atop which is positioned a cashier that is portrayed as a monkey. John Hall's creation met with considerable success and overwhelming consumer demand. Within a year's time his invention gave birth to a major new industry in the United States. Iron foundries emerged throughout the northeast for the purpose of manufacturing mechanical banks.
     Over the ensuing years a multitude of these cast iron money gobblers were produced, and in various shapes with diverse subject matter. These included circus acts, wild animals, birds, historical events, racism, various occupations, etc. It is interesting that John Hall's subject of a building bank with cashier continued to maintain its popularity. This is evidenced by subsequently produced examples of mechanicals in the category, such as "Hall's Lilliput Bank", "Cupola Bank", "Magic Bank", "National Bank", "Home Bank", "Novelty Bank", etc.
     Arthur Gould's design, seen in Figure 1, was drastically modified from Hall's original concept. His creation featured a bank teller, in human form, positioned behind a "podium" indicating the word "BANK". The building structure itself had been eliminated.
     Interestingly, the patent papers seen in Figure 2 were utilized in the creation of two different mechanicals, both credited to Arthur C. Gould. The duo was "Bank Teller", Figure 1, and "Preacher In the Pulpit" (refer to Antique Toy World, August 2004). In both, the figures of the bank teller and the preacher are quite similar in appearance and action. The only observable differences are their podiums and that the right arm of the bank teller is positioned at its side while the preacher's right arm is raised above its head.
     Action of the "Bank Teller" is apropos to its subject. A coin is placed upon the tray held in the teller's left hand. The weight of the coin causes its arm to lower. The contribution then slides from the tray and into the slot atop the desk. As the arm descends, the teller's head nods. After deposition the head and arm return to the position seen in Figure 1.
     Although simple in design and action, this bank's manner of coin reclamation is rather complicated and problematic. Initially, the screw underneath the base that fastens the figure of the teller to the bank is removed. The back panel of the desk is then automatically released, allowing the depositor to shake out the coins.
     To date, information has yet to surface pertaining to the manufacturer of "Bank Teller". However, several design peculiarities, including internal mechanics, casting and paint similarities, indicate the J. & E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut may have perhaps produced this mechanical.
     Worthy of discussion is a discovery by the late Mr. Lloyd Ralston, noted mechanical bank collector, dealer, and historian. Several years ago he came upon Arthur C. Gould's actual patent model figure for the "Bank Teller Bank" (Figure 3). At that time Mr. Ralston reported: "prior to 1890, the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. required that a working model be submitted with drawings and descriptions for all proposed inventions. The Patent Office received Mr. Gould's model on June 28, 1876, and subsequently issued him a formal patent for the figure of the man on July 22, 1876" (Figure 2).
     There are two significant casting variations of "Bank Teller Bank". Both pertain solely to the side panels of the teller's cage. These may exhibit either cast on, three dimensional scrollwork or flat castings with gold painted, faux scrollwork.
     "Bank Teller Bank" is extremely rare with only eight or nine examples known to exist. Its rarity may perhaps be attributed to factors such as complicated coin removal, fragile construction, and limited production.
     To my knowledge, there have not been attempts at reproducing "Bank Teller Bank". However, in view of the mechanical's rarity and value, the possibility of such future endeavors cannot be ignored. Figure 4 represents a base diagram of an original example. A recast version would appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter O.D. than indicated.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example of "Bank Teller Bank" (Figure 1) is from the collection of Steve and Marilyn Steckbeck.

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