Cast Iron Bank Exhibit Now Open

On Feb. 3, the Historical Society of Western Virginia, Roanoke, opened “You Can Bank On Us: Mechanical and Still Banks from the Collections of Stephen and Tom Broker.” The exhibit showcases banks manufactured from the earliest 1900s through the 1930s by such toy companies as A.C. Williams, Arcade, Hubley, Kenton, Grey Iron Casting Company and J&E Stevens. An opening reception was held Feb. 3. The exhibit includes reproduction banks the museum purchased so youngsters could see how the vintage banks operate.

Sampling of architectural banks in exhibit

The exhibit will be displayed at the Society’s O. Winston Link Museum and the History Museum of Western Virginia, housed in an historic Norfolk and Western Railway passenger station, through May 2018. Supporters for the exhibit are led by Member One and include Heights Community Church, Howell’s Freight, Evergreen and Audiotronics.

The bank collection was inspired by the men’s parents, Thomas O. and Evelyn F. Broker, who loved visiting antique shops on Cape Cod, Mass., throughout New England, and in their home state of Ohio. Evelyn Broker had been given a Boxer (Bulldog) bank as a child, and when the boys went with their mother on antiquing trips, she would direct them to the metals sections where they would be less likely to break things. The greater part of Steve’s bank collection was assembled during those trips. Tom continued collecting banks in later years, often bidding on auction house sales of collections by such well known collectors as Hubert Whiting.

The Roanoke connection dates to 1965, when the parents moved to the city where Thomas Sr. served three years as General Counsel to the Norfolk and Western Railroad (now the Norfolk Southern), then headquartered in Roanoke. He later taught at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. During the Brokers’ more than 20 years in the Roanoke Valley, the sons got to spend summers in the Blue Ridge Mountains community and make friends, such as David Lemon. Lemon, a member of the, Historical Society Board, was responsible for bringing the Brokers’ collection to Roanoke. Stephen Broker, retired, lives in Cheshire, Conn., and Dr. Thomas Broker Jr. is emeritus faculty at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. Both Brokers attended the reception.

The cast iron “penny” bank exhibit is arranged in four groupings, Animals, Whimsicals, Buildings and Architectural, and Mechanical Banks. A sampling of books on collecting penny banks complements the exhibition. Accompanying it is an exhibit of banking ledgers of the past and a textile exhibit showing clothing that would have been traditional in the 1930s, including some items using feed sacks as cloth.


Board Member, Historical Society of Western Virginia Graduate: Hollins University, BA and MALS in English; Virginia Western Community College, AA in Business Administration Profession: Writer, editor