Old Woman with Broom
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – April, 2007
What more appropriate choice for discussion,
this article, than the mechanical referred to as "Old Woman With Broom
Bank". Its theme, that of the physical punishment of a child, has recently
sparked worldwide controversy and much debate.
Throughout the centuries, and in most societies, children were
regarded as possessions, to be seen but not heard. Biblical text and wise
sages preached the well-known doctrine "spare the rod, spoil the child".
Familiar nursery rhymes and fairy tales depicted unruly, misbehaving
children being severely punished in order to teach the lesson of
The commonly-held belief in punishment of the young appears to have
inspired several toy manufacturers of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. A number of mechanical banks were created, both in
this country and abroad that exhibited the consequences experienced by the
disobedient or mischievous child. Notable examples include: "Boy Robbing
Bird's Nest Bank" (Antique Toy World,
June 1991), "Boys Stealing
Watermelons Bank" (A.T.W.
March 1985), "Old Woman In the Shoe Bank" (A.T.W.
November 1988), "Schoolmaster Bank" (A.T.W.
August 2004), and "Old Woman
With Broom Bank" (Figure 1).
The mechanical depicts an elderly woman, broom in hand, poised to
chastise an unruly and obviously disrespectful lad. The child stands
before the woman, to whom he is seen "thumbing his nose". In this instance
the lesson in morality is quite evident: punishment will be dealt swiftly
and harshly to the child who defies
the edict of proper respect for his elders.
"Old Woman With Broom" (Figure 1) is but one of a series of extremely
rare mechanical banks. These are believed to have been produced from 1900
through 1910, and by the Gebruder Bing Tin Works of Nurnberg, Germany.
Bing was a renowned European producer of items such as tinplate household
goods and toys that included trains, boats, automobiles and steam engines.
Unfortunately, there is little or no documentation by most German toy
manufacturers of the period, including Bing, that pertains to these toys
and mechanical banks. The lack of patent information, in particular, is
attributed to early twentieth century German patent laws. It was
government mandated that "insignificant patents" (i.e. toys) were to be
discarded after fifteen years of issuance.
Had it not been for the fortuitous discovery of the Gebruder Bing
catalog (Figure 2), pertinent information relating to "Old Woman With
Broom Bank" as well as other Bing creations, would have remained an
enigma. Although this mechanical is not pictured in the catalog, visual
and structural similarity to other members of its assumed family is
Descriptions and prices of the Bing series of mechanical banks, as
indicated in the catalog (Figure 2), are as follows: "Banks-Made of tin,
nicely decorated. With lock and movable figures. Supplied in 24 assorted
subjects. Prices per item: Mark-57".
"Old Woman With Broom Bank" is constructed almost entirely of hand
painted tinplate, as was all others in the series. The articulated figures
of the broom-wielding woman and the little boy are composed of zinc-lead
alloy, and both were colorfully and artfully painted.
Operation of the mechanical is initiated by inserting a coin through
the slot provided in the roof of the bank. The old woman's arm, broom in
hand, rises, and then lowers as if to strike the disrespectful child
(Figure 3). Deposits are removed by opening the key lock, trap door type
coin retainer underneath the base.
I am not aware of the existence of reproduced mechanicals in the Bing
series. However, due to their delicate nature there is the possibility of
restored or reproduced parts. In such instances, limited professional
conservation may be considered acceptable without significantly devaluing
Although "Old Woman With Broom Bank" is small in size: Height: 3-1/2
inches, Width: 4 inches, Depth: 2-1/2 inches, its desirability is not
diminished. It is an extremely rare, attractive and important addition to
a mechanical bank collection.
Acknowledgements: The fine example "Old Woman With Broom Bank",
Figure 1, is from the collection of the Kidd Toy Museum, Frank and Joyce
Fellow collectors and historians, Harold and Uli Merklein of
Niirnberg, Germany, provided copies of the Bing catalog pages seen in
Correction: Antique Toy World
March, 2007, "Key
Bank". Footnote definition of a Mechanical Bank should read: "A toy
savings device that performs a mechanical function and, in the process,
receives a coin".