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The Target Bank
by Sy Schreckinger ANTIQUE TOY WORLD Magazine September, 2014

NO SINGLE CATEGORY of items manufactured both in this country and abroad can compete with the mechanical bank for diversity and vivid portrayal of subject matter. Manufacturers cleverly utilized political events and other timely topics of the era as well as various occupations, architecture, circus themes, animals, sports, etc.
     There were also those mechanicals designed for gender appeal. Notables such as "Girl Skipping Rope" Bank, "Speaking Dog Bank", "Mammy and Child", "Girl In Victorian Chair", etc. were usually favored by young girls. Boys were, generally, fascinated with those themes featuring weaponry and armed conflict. Prominent examples included "Octagonal Fort" Bank, "U.S. and Spain" Bank, "Cannon and Tower" Bank, "Hold The Fort" Bank (Figure 1), and our subject 'The Target Bank" (Figure 2).
     "The Target Bank" was designed and patented by Louis C. Hoffmeister of Philadelphia, Pa., with half of the rights assigned to H.M. Beidler, also of Philadelphia, Pa. They were granted Patent Number 188,635 (Figure 3) on March 20, 1877 for their invention.
     It is only an assumption, due to lack of recorded documentation, that 'Target Bank" was manufactured by the J. and E. Stevens Company of Cromwell, Connecticut. This presumption is based upon the appearance of "Target Bank" in the 1877 issue of the Strasburger, Pfeffernuss & Co. Wholesale Catalog, with a price of $8.00 per dozen. The bank was featured alongside several other mechanicals in that catalog that are documented to have been produced by the J. and E. Stevens Company.
     Action and operation of "Target Bank" is quite unique. The mechanical utilizes two coin slots which, as indicated within the patent, were designed for the admission of both small and large coins. The design incorporates a circular target featuring a horizontal coin slot cut through the center of the target (thus intended for small coins). The patent also indicates a recessed, curved rest, placed directly in front of a large coin slot located in the base, which is positioned in front of the target. This rest was designed to enable large coins to lean against the target itself.
     Operation of "Target Bank" is swift and appropriate to the subject. A thin steel rod which runs through the barrel of the cannon is initially pulled back and snapped into place. Depending upon its size, a coin is either inserted horizontally into the target slot or placed standing against the front of the target. Upon releasing the catch, the internal rod springs forward, striking either of the coins. The smaller coin is projected into the "house" behind the target, whereupon it falls into the body of the Fort. The large coin is pushed sharply against the face of the target, resulting in its descent through the large slot located behind the curved coin rest. Deposits are recovered by opening a screw-secured coin retainer located underneath the base (Figure 4).
     Interestingly, during the year within which 'Target Bank" was patented and manufactured, another "fort-type" mechanical bank was assigned patent protection and subsequently
produced. This was "Hold The Fort" Bank, seen in Figures 1 and 5. Over the years, collectors and historians have pondered over the uncanny similarities of design and action of "Target Bank" and "Hold The Fort" Bank. Several possibilities were considered. One plausible explanation was that since J. and E. Stevens presumably manufactured both mechanicals, perhaps the company consulted with each of the bank's inventors regarding aspects of design.
     "Target Bank" is extremely rare. A mere handful of fine, all original, complete and working examples are known to populate the collections of a few fortunate individuals.
     I am, at present, not aware of any reproduction of "Target Bank". Nonetheless, the following are the base dimensions of an original example: Length: 7-1/4 inches. Width: 3-3/8 inches. If a recast were attempted, the length would appear approximately one-eighth inch shorter than indicated.
     Acknowledgments: The fine example "Target Bank" (Figure 2) is in the Kidd Toy Museum Collection, Frank and Joyce Kidd proprietors.
     My thanks to the R.S.L. Auction Company for providing the photograph of "Hold The Fort" Bank seen in Figure 1.

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