Two men reading

A touch of whimsy

In addition to photographs, ledgers, and a numismatic collection, the Corporate Archives houses approximately 80 mechanical “piggy” banks. The banks, largely made of cast iron, date from the mid-19th to early-20th centuries and were intended to encourage healthy financial habits among children. While the mechanical banks were not produced by BMO, they add a touch of whimsy to our vault shelves and show a history of helping future clients lay the foundation for making real financial progress.

The majority of the mechanical banks tell stories that would have been identifiable to children of the period, ranging from popular culture to contemporary news.

Eagle and Eaglets

Other mechanical banks, such as this bank produced in 1883, contained hidden design features that made depositing coins all the more diverting. When the lever at the rear of the bank is pressed, the eagle leans forward with the coin in its beak to “feed” the eaglets. The eaglets simultaneously rise from the nest to receive the coin, which is subsequently dropped into a receptacle within the nest. Throughout the process, a bellows device concealed within the base of the bank even mimics the sound of chirping.

Image: Eagle and Eaglets mechanical bank, designed by Charles M. Henn, manufactured by J.& E. Stevens Co., 1883.

Teddy and the Bear

The popular story of President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a black bear during a hunting trip in Onward, Mississippi, inspired numerous toys, such as stuffed “teddy” bears and this mechanical bank. Once a coin is loaded on top of Roosevelt’s rifle and the depositor presses the lever on the base of the bank to “shoot” the coin into the tree hollow, a bear emerges from the top of stump.

With mechanical banks as eye-catching and cleverly designed as these, is it any wonder children were so eager to save their coins?

Image: Teddy and the Bear mechanical bank, designed by Charles A. Bailey, manufactured by J.& E. Stevens Co., 1907.