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
The pictured mechanical (Figure 1) is attributed to one Arthur C.
Gould of Brookline, Massachusetts. In August of 1876, Gould was granted
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
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
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.