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Hall’s Liliput Bank — Part 2
(Types I, II, III)

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

     “Hall’s Liliput”, the mechanical bank selected to be subject of this article, is one that is often perceived as insignificant and lackluster. At first glance, it may compare unfavorably to its "flashier" and more animated brethren. Closer inspection, however, reveals a mechanical possessing elegance and dignity contained within its simple design.
     The delicately cast, vividly chromatic gem pictured in Figure 1 pays tribute to the genius of its inventor, John Hall. He is considered to be the most important inventor of mechanical banks during the nineteenth century. It was Hall who fathered the very first cast iron mechanical bank ever produced, namely "Hall's Excelsior Bank" (refer to Antique Toy World, February 1984).
     Interestingly, "Hall's Liliput" is the only mechanical to have been manufactured differently a total of three times. Each production resulted in examples that exhibited improvements upon its predecessor's frailties. The metamorphosis is pictured in Figures 1, 2, and 3 and referred to as Types I, II, and III. Thus, the reason for this update is to illustrate the unique changes "Hall's Liliput" underwent during its various stages of improvement.
     On May 4, 1875 John Hall of Watertown, Massachusetts was granted Patent Number 162,747 HALL'S LILIPUT", THE MECHANICAL bank selected to be subject of this article, is one that is (Figure 4) for his "Liliput Bank". The J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut subsequently manufactured Hall's creation. However, as evidenced by the final production bank, Figure 1, the Stevens Company did not adhere to these patent drawings.
     On July 27, 1875 "Design" Patent Number 8,498 (Figure 5) was issued to John Hall. This patent is of considerable interest since it incorporated an actual photograph of the "Liliput Bank" rather than the customary drawing, implying the bank's design was patented after it was manufactured. The words "PATENTED MAY 1875", "JAN 1876" "PAT DESIGN, JULY 27, 1875" cast into the sides and back of the bank facilitated location of the patent papers.
     A unique feature indicative of all mechanical banks designed by John Hall was the usage of a coin's weight to initiate action. Yet, on April 24, 1877, Hall was granted a patent for an "improvement" on his "Liliput Bank" (Figure 6). It utilized a lever which, when pressed, resulted in the commencement of action with or without usage of a coin. To the best of my knowledge this lever design was never incorporated into any manufactured "Liliput Bank". (If there is any reader who does have knowledge of such a 'lever activated' "Hall's Liliput Bank", such information would be greatly appreciated.)
     Figure 1 represents the earliest of "Liliput" banks (Type 1). It not only displayed a much narrower facade then its successors but also demonstrated a conspicuous manufacturing defect resulting in the redesigned and improved mechanical seen in Figure 2 (Type II). The defect refers to the manner in which the sides of the banks were secured into place. "Liliput Bank" (Figure 1) utilized two force-fit iron tabs at the top and bottom of each of its sides. These tabs snapped into small slots, which secured both the roof and base to the bank. In executing this procedure, factory workers encountered considerable breakage since the material used in construction of the bank, i.e. cast iron, is not known for its flexibility and resilience to stress.
     "Hall's Liliput" (Type 2), seen in Figure 2, was redesigned by J. and E. Stevens to utilize rivets in place of the force-fit tabs in order to secure the sides of the bank to its roof and base. These riveted banks resulted in a much neater and more efficient attachment with absolutely no breakage. Unfortunately, resolution of the "tab" problem did not resolve all of the dilemmas for "Hall's Liliput". During deposition of coins, the cashier, whose arms function as the coin carrier, experienced the problem of the monies dislodging prior to entering the provided slot. This  quandary prompted J. and E. Stevens to incorporate yet another improvement to the "Liliput". In this model, Type III (Figure 3), a small, round tin tray was added to the cashier's hands. This allowed the coin to rest securely in place and provide for a consistent and reliable deposit.
     The uncomplex action of "Hall's Liliput" is described in a J. and E. Stevens Company sales catalog (Figure 7), circa 1883: "Pretty, tasteful, and simple in construction. Cannot get out of order. The coin laid upon the plate is carried by the cashier and placed in the Bank. The figure then returns to its place, ready for another deposit". Coins are removed from the bank by way of a small, round version Stevens' type coin retainer underneath its base.
     Types I and II of "Hall's Liliput Bank" are extremely rare. Less than a handful of each is known to exist on the shelves of fortunate collectors. Conversely, "Hall's Liliput", Type III, is considered quite common. Nonetheless, finding one in near mint condition could prove a challenge to even a most perseverant collector.
     Acknowledgement: The superb example of the "Hall's Liliput Bank", Type 1, (Figure 1) is in the collection of Bob Weiss.

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