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Hall’s Excelsior Bank — Part 3
An Important New Discovery

by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – March, 2008

     December 21, 1869 has long been recognized as possibly the most significant date in the history of the mechanical bank. It was on that date that John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts was granted Patent Number 98,055 (Figure 1) for his invention of the "Hall's Excelsior Bank". Seen in Figure 3, it has been acknowledged to be the earliest, commercially produced, cast iron mechanical bank known.
     Exciting, and surprising, is the recent discovery of yet another "Hall's Excelsior Bank", and one that may very well predate the aforementioned mechanical. The historical importance of this hitherto unknown example (Figure 2) has prompted the writing of this article.
     The most important and obvious differences between this latest find and the familiar "Hall's Excelsior Bank" is that the 'new discovery' adheres precisely to Hall's patent drawings, as seen in Figures 1 and 4. (Figure 4 was the renewed, or second, patent for the "Excelsior Bank" issued to John Hall on April 17, 1877.)
     The following will attempt to explore the differences between the two "Hall's Excelsior" banks: Figure 3 represents the familiar "Hall's Excelsior Bank" in which is seen a dome-shaped cupola. In contrast, our subject of discussion exhibits a curvilinear designed cupola (Figure 2), and is precisely as indicated in Hall's patent drawings represented in Figures 1 and 4. Also, the shapes of the carved wooden bodies of the 'cashiers' appear to differ significantly. In Figure 5 (the known version of "Hall's Excelior)" we see a somewhat stubby and ape-like torso; the newly discovered example (Figure 6) is sleeker in appearance, proportioned to more aptly represent the homosapien figure, and most importantly, is reflective of Hall's patent designs.
     Figure 7 illustrates the bank's externally visible operational wire, as originally designed and pictured by John Hall in his patent drawings. That wire is omitted in the familiar "Hall's Excelsior" (refer to Figure 5). In addition, Figure 8 is a view of the underside of the base of the 'new discovery'. The pivoting coin retainer seen here is as illustrated in Hall's original patent drawings. In contrast, to date, no other examples of the "Hall's Excelsior Bank" are equipped with coin retainers and must be completely disassembled in order to reclaim coin deposits. Dimensions of the 'new discovery' "Excelsior Bank" are: facade Height (excluding roof and cupola): 3-9/16 inches, Width: 3-7/16 inches, Depth: 3-3/16 inches. These measurements appear to be 1/16 inch larger than the known version.
     Action of both "Hall's Excelsior" banks (Figures 2 and 3) is similar. Initially, the small glass knob at the side of the front door is pulled. This is connected to a string or wire, which lifts the domed platform with its cashier and desk to the position shown in Figure 6. A coin is then placed upon the desk, the weight of which causes the cupola to close, thus depositing the coin. The desk and cashier disappear from sight.
     Interestingly, construction and materials utilized differ significantly between the newly discovered "Hall's Excelsior Bank" and the known version. The latter was manufactured primarily of cast iron, with the exception of the carved wood cashier and desk. The featured example (Figures 2 and 6) also exhibits a carved wood cashier and desk; however, its platform is composed of tin plate and a cast lead curvilinear dome.
     On a final note, the obvious question arises as to why the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut, manufacturer of record of the "Hall's Excelsior Bank", did not adhere to John Hall's original patent designs when mass producing his invention. One can only speculate: possibly difficulty due to complexity of production or assembly; possibly fragility and breakage of materials during distribution. Hopefully time and further research will offer a viable explanation.
     At this time, however, the "Hall's Excelsior Bank", seen in Figure 2 and subject of this article, appears to be the predecessor to the mechanical (Figure 3) that had been thought to be the first.

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