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Saluting Sailor Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine May, 2008

     Our subject, this article, is a rare and attractive tin-plate mechanical bank. Known as "Saluting Sailor" (Figure 1), it reflects a theme that has fascinated boys and men alike.
     Throughout history, youngsters have been entertained by various toys and games that evoked images of raging seas and battles to be fought. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a plethora of nautical and military-related objects were produced in this country and abroad. Included were toy mechanical penny banks with such names as "Hold the Fort Bank", "U.S. and Spain Bank", "Sailor Money Box", "Tommy Bank", "Creedmoor Bank", and the aforementioned "Saluting Sailor" Bank (Figure 1).
     "Saluting Sailor" is one of a set of three rare lithographed tin-plate mechanical banks. The other two members are "Clever Dick" and "Clown and Dog". They were created by Saalheimer and Strauss Tin Works during the early twentieth century. Located in Nurnberg, Germany, then the manufacturing center of early tin-plate merchandise, this company was considered one of the foremost producers of tin-plate household goods, novelty items and mechanical banks of the era.
     Figure 2 represents a page from an early Saalheimer and Strauss wholesale toy catalog, circa 1928-1936, wherein the aforementioned trio is pictured. All three are recognized as having a unique, round top configuration, as well as comparable construction materials.
     The discovery of this catalog provided invaluable information pertaining not only to the manufacture of "Saluting Sailor" but also to other tin-plate mechanicals in the company's line. In addition, the word "GERMANY' imprinted upon the bank further attests to its country of origin.
     Action of "Saluting Sailor" differs significantly from its brethren. Upon activation, both "Clown and Dog" and "Clever Dick" flip a coin upward and around an external arched track and into the bank. "Saluting Sailor", however, raises its right arm and hand in a saluting gesture, simultaneously lowering its left elbow in order to expose the coin slot. Upon deposition of a coin into said slot, the lever is released and the seaman's arms return to the position seen in Figure 1. Wordage imprinted upon the lower facade of the bank describes its action quite succinctly: "What a funny money-box, with no slot behind it? Press the lever Jack salutes, now, perhaps you'll find it.". Deposits are retrieved by opening a square, key lock, coin retainer located underneath the base.
     Collectors and historians have long debated whether the subject depicted by "Saluting Sailor" Bank represents a peacetime mariner or one involved in a war effort. These conflicting suppositions are based solely upon the environment of the "sailor".
     Is the round hatch located behind the subject an access or entry to ship's quarters? Or, is it the round port to a forward torpedo tube of a German U-Boat? Figures 3 and 4 may possibly serve to support or refute either point of view, and to provide a logical answer. Figure 3 is a World War I photograph, circa 1915, of a forward torpedo tube of a German U-Boat showing the hand wheel used to set gyro angles on loaded torpedoes (note a similar hand wheel behind the sailor's right hand, as seen in Figure 1). Figure 4 is a World War I photograph of a German U-Boat crewmember in uniform, circa 1915.
     If one was to conclude, based upon the preceding exhibits, that the bank depicts a wartime scenario, one must also take into account the object pictured in Figure 1 was not created during wartime. In fact, manufacture of "Saluting Sailor", as documented by the Saalheimer and Strauss catalog (Figure 2), would have been sometime between 1920 and 1936. This would have been post World War I and pre World War II. It appears that the bank's manufacturer may possibly have intended the vessel, or submarine, to represent an intriguing and imaginative feat of under water engineering rather than a warship.
     To the best of my knowledge, no mechanical manufactured by Saalheimer and Strauss has been reproduced. However, this does not preclude the prospect of restoration in the form of replaced components of the bank. In such instances, its monetary value is compromised accordingly.
     To conclude, despite its tin plate construction and diminutive size (i.e. Height: 6-3/4 inches; Width: 4-7/8 inches), the "Saluting Sailor" is a most colorful and desirable addition to a mechanical bank collection.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example of "Saluting Sailor" Bank (Figure 1) is in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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