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Pump and Bucket Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine September, 2010

     SIMPLISTIC AND CHARMING are the imaginizing of life on a farm. Its appeal was the catalyst for the manufacture of innumerable objects reflecting such an existence.
     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 accordingly.

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