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Wireless Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine August, 2011

     ONE OF THE MOST popular categories of both still and mechanical banks is the representation of a building, whether it be a commercial, residential or historical structure. Interestingly, the very first patented, commercially produced cast iron mechanical bank was introduced in 1869. Its subject Figure I was a bank building familiarly known as "Halls Excelsior" (Figure 1).
     In contrast, those mechanicals that derive their action from an electrical-operated source represent
the smallest group. The unique and interesting "Wireless Bank", subject of this article and seen in Figure 2, enjoys inclusion in both the building and battery-operated categories.
     "Wireless Bank" was the creation of Christian Berger of New York, for which, on January 5, 1926, he was granted Patent Number 1,568.711 (Figure 3). His patent illustrates four detailed drawings pertaining to the exterior design and internal components of the mechanical. Mr. Berger subsequently assigned patent rights to a Frederick L. Sawyer of Evanston, Illinois.
     Until recently, confusion prevailed amongst toy historians pertaining to the actual patent date of "Wireless Bank". This was due to the fact that the following four patent dates had been inscribed underneath its cast iron base: "Pat. March 11, 1913. Nov. 10, 1914. Dec. 19, 1916. Sept. 24, 1918." with no available official patent papers relating these specific dates. The only known government issued patent is seen in Figure 3; ironically, its date (January 5, 1926) is not imprinted underneath the base of the bank.
     Recently, the discovery of a paper label affixed to the base of a battery-operated, sound activated, electro- magnet to namely "Wireless Pup", has shed light on the previously discussed multi-patent date conundrum. This paper label reads: "The Wireless Pup Manufactured Under C. Berger Patents March 11, 1913 and November 10, 1914". Both of these dates are also seen under the base of "Wireless Bank". It appears obvious that the patent seen in Figure 3 not only served to protect the design of Mr. Berger's "Wireless Bank" building, but was also utilized as a patent renewal of the electro-magnet circuitry previously acquired for his "Wireless Pup" toy.
     Action of "Wireless Bank" is accurately described on the instruction card included within the packaging of each bank. The card indicates that, prior to activation, a "D" size battery must be installed into the mechanical's battery compartment. The following are the designated instructions for usage: "Directions for Operation. 1- Place Bank on level surface. 2- 'turn coin holder which is on top of bank over until it rests on the electro magnet where it should stay. 3- Place coin (one, five, ten or 25 cents piece) gently on coin holder without jarring Bank, being sure that the edge of the coin rests against the two projections on coin holder. 4- Coin holder being in position call loudly: GO CASH or any appropriate word, or CLAP THE HANDS and to your surprise the money will be deposited in the bank".
     A key was included with each bank. Its purpose was to unlock the sheet metal coin retainer door underneath the base.
     Figure 4 pictures an original packing box for the "Wireless Bank". Its importance is in the provision of data relating to the bank's inventor and manufacturer. It reads: "THE JOHN HUGO MANUFACTURING COMPANY, NEW HAVEN, CONN. Sole Mfg. and selling rights under Christian Berger's Patents of March 11, 1913, November 10, 1914, December 19, 1916, September 24, 1918 and February 7, 1922.
     To my knowledge, "Wireless Bank" has never been reproduced. The following dimensions are provided solely to aid the collector in determining size and scale. Width: 6-3/4 inches; Depth: 4-1/2 inches; Height: 4-7/8 inches.
     On a final note, "Wireless Bank" is an extremely ingenious and attractive mechanical. It is constructed of cast iron, brightly lithographed tin plate, wood and copper. Although considered quite common by mechanical bank devotees, attempting to acquire a pristine, fully operational example can prove to be a challenge for even the most resourceful collector.

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