There’s big money in television, or, how Jimmy got his new bicycle

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The above ad ran in small-publisher comic books in the early 1950s, when TV was the new amazing thing. After decades of getting their mass-market entertainment from movies and radio, TV was just astonishing to most Americans. The shows broadcast in those days were primitive by our standards, but hey; the novelty of the medium trumped finesse in execution.

We’ll save that discussion for later, as today we’re examining coin banks with a television motif. The idea was that your friends and relatives would be so smitten by the TV bank that they couldn’t resist dropping their money into it, thus fronting you the money for your new bike or pony or, if you were a smart kid, shares of IBM or Polaroid stock.

I love the copy in this ad. The art is so-so, from the Bazooka Joe school of kid gangs with funny hats and funnier hair. The text, though, is something wonderful.

LIGHTS UP! LIKE BIGGEST, COSTLIEST TELEVISION SETS! Well, true, if lighting up is what you look to a television set for. The heart of a TV is a large and educated light bulb. Most people, though, feel there’s more to the equation.

A couple of the bullet points are strangely worded:
HITS EVERY TELEVISION HIGH . . . FIGHTS AND ALL! Boxing was a major draw in the early days of TV. It moved, you see.

THRILLS YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS POP-EYED! I can’t imagine how the copywriter came up with this one. I don’t think I’d want to be thrilled pop-eyed; it sounds like it might hurt.

IT’S A HONEY IN EVERY DETAIL! I have to agree, I suppose.

Here are the six little pictures that light up on this bank when you drop in your (or your mom’s) coin, in the words of the ad:
• a fight
• a hilarious cartoon
• a tense rodeo scene
• a swell skater
• a dramatic dance team, and
• a circus clown with his trick dog!

The six exciting pictures pretty much cover what TV was all about in those days!

Thanks to the miracle of eBay, we can see this and other great TV banks from the mid 20th century. Here’s the bank touted in the ad, and this example was going for about $160:

A nice-looking unit. I guess it would hold a lot of coins.

A closeup of the all-important picture, showing the tense rodeo scene. I hope your eyes are still in your head after seeing that:
Here’s another type of TV bank. The low-resolution picture shows a little girl or a puppet or a doll with a curious parachute-like skirt. It’s a nice-looking bank, though:


This example is from a Danish eBay auction. The bank has just one scene: a speeding cowboy (see the velocity lines coming off the legs of his horse?) chasing and attempting to rope another horse. Note that there are three slots on this one for the various sized coins that might find their way into your TV bank. Not sure that is a compelling feature; one big slot would work for all the coins and they’re going to get jumbled and commingled once they go through the slot anyway.
Some of the TV banks celebrate particular TV shows of the era. Here’s a Romper Room TV bank, with perhaps the world’s most insincere clown:
This TV bank shows an oddly blasé Howdy Doody, who was a hugely popular marionette from those times. This appears to be one of those ceramic banks that you had to smash to get your coins. I didn’t like that concept:
Our last TV bank looks to me as though it’s a repurposed radio bank, with a black-and-white paper photo pasted over the radio dial to make it look like a TV:
So find yourself a TV bank and start saving up those coins; you know you want to impress the gang with your new bike!!!

In the thicket of it . . .

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149 years ago tonight, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor John WIlkes Booth at Ford’s Theater, in Washington, D.C. After his mad and useless act, Booth escaped into Southern Maryland and then Northern Virginia before being discovered by Union cavalry. He was shot and killed on a small farm near Port Royal, Virginia, on April 26, 1865.


It is said that Booth, with accomplice David Herold, hid in a pine thicket for almost five days after shooting Lincoln. This pine thicket still exists on the west side of Zekiah Swamp, near Newtown, in Charles County, Maryland. As you might expect, this is not a place in which one would like to linger, much less spend several days and nights.


Dave Taylor, a person whom I’ve not yet met, but greatly admire, is going to reenact that almost five-day stay in the pine thicket in the coming few days, with not much more than Booth and Herold had with them when they were there. If you’d like to learn more about this astonishing endeavor, you can read up on it at the young man’s blog. Not only is Dave a brave and intrepid fellow, but he’s a darn good writer and a first-rate and original researcher of all things relating to the Lincoln assassination. I learned of Dave through the Surratt Society, which we both belong to and support, and we’ve emailed back and forth a few times.

Here’s Dave’s first-rate blog concerning Lincoln:



Good luck, Dave!!!