Pump and Bucket Bank
by Sy Schreckinger – ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine – September, 2010
AND CHARMING are the imaginizing of life on a farm. Its appeal was the
catalyst for the manufacture of innumerable objects reflecting such an
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries several
mechanical banks were produced, both in this country and abroad, that
depicted various aspects of farm life. Some examples were of a humorous
nature. These included the two youths caught in the act of thievery,
i.e. "Boys Stealing Watermelons Bank", and the startled lad thrust from
his stool in "Milking Cow Bank". Others represented animals such as
"Rooster Bank", "Mule Entering Barn", and "Hen and Chicks Bank". There
are also several examples that depict commonplace implements so
reminiscent of farm life. One of these is "Pump and Bucket" bank (Figure
1), our subject this article.
"Pump and Bucket" is a unique combination of a mechanical bank and a
coin registering bank. This was revealed in the descriptive text
accompanying an illustration of "Pump and Bucket" (Figure 2) seen in a
Marshall Field and Co. catalog, circa 1892. Most registering banks are
classified as such since, upon
insertion of a coin, its sole function is to record, within a small
window, the precise sum of deposit. However, "Pump and Bucket" neither
allows for recording of coins nor their deposition until its pump handle
is raised and lowered. It is this one lone feature, namely its manual /
mechanical aspect that categorizes it as a "mechanical bank".
"Pump and Bucket" was produced with two distinctly different castings.
The variations pertain specifically to its platform. One simply displays
a faux wood grained effect, and the other, as seen in Figure 1, exhibits
the words "Complements of Gusky's"
imprinted in raised lettering. Unfortunately, to date, there is no
recorded historical data indicating either the designer or manufacturer
of the "Pump and Bucket" mechanical bank. Had it not been for the
aforementioned 1892 Marshall Field and Company catalog (Figure 2), its
period of distribution would have remained unknown.
Information pertaining to the heritage of "Pump and Bucket" may also be
gleamed by closely examining the bank's bucket which had been
incorporated into its platform. Figure 3 indicates a catalog page from
the Nicol and Company, Cast Iron Toys, Chicago, Illinois. It offers for
sale a bucket style bank, albeit not a registering bank, but uncannily
similar in design and size to our subject. In addition, it is composed
of nickel plated cast iron, as is the bucket utilized in "Pump and
Bucket". This particular bank is referred to as "White City Trick or
Puzzle Bank". It is also believed that Nicol and Company manufactured a
"one-cent" bucket style registering bank, as seen in Figure 4. These
factors lead me to believe that "Pump and Bucket", in its entirety, may
have been manufactured by Nicol and Company.
Activation of "Pump and Bucket", as described within the Marshall Field
catalog and the instruction label (Figure 5) affixed to the underside of
the mechanical, is as follows: "No. 127. "Pump Registering Bank" Place
the coin (Dimes Only) in the slot and move the pump handle up and down
and the correct amount will be registered. When $5.00 are Figure 4
deposited the lid can be taken off by pushing back the small pin in the
top and turning the bank upside down".
The wordage "Compliments of Gusky's" imprinted atop the platform of
"Pump and Bucket" reveals a very interesting aspect of this mechanical's
history. Such information was provided by noted historian and collector,
the late Mr. F.H. Griffith. In an article dated April 1962, Mr. Griffith
relates: "Gusky's was Pittsburgh's first department store. Jacob Mark
Gusky, a prominent philanthropist, opened the establishment in 1880. It
was his policy to offer, free of charge, a "Pump and Bucket" mechanical
bank to any child whose father purchased a suit at his shop. His
generosity extended itself to distributing toys at Christmas time to
underprivileged children." Mr. Griffith also relates that "Mr. Gusky
died at the age of 45, in the year 1886. His store continued to operate
for a number of years until 1904, when Gusky's Department Store closed
its doors forever".
"Pump and Bucket" is extremely scarce, especially
when found in all original, unrestored and fully operational condition.
To my knowledge, this bank has not been reproduced. However, in view of
its fragility, there are few examples that have not been either
partially or extensively restored. When contemplating purchase, such
repairs should be taken into consideration and price-adjusted