cover photo: http://www.kalimbamagic.com
Old music boxes are a rare item that irresistibly and strikingly reminds of the past, mysteries and romance. Today, they are sold for nothing at flea markets, hiding somewhere in dusty attics and kept from oblivion in rare homes and mostly museums.
People have always loved entertainment accompanied by music. In ancient times, they only did it live. In the 9th century, for the first time and according to known documents, people had the opportunity to enjoy mechanical music. At that time, a water-powered organ was devised in Iraq. The organ could play several different melodies recorded on rotating rollers.
Self-playing bells (carillon bells, pictured above) were built on churches and towers on a similar principle in the Middle Ages. At the end of the 19th century, a real industry of making smaller or larger home music boxes developed in Germany and Switzerland.
The idea was born after the pattern on tobacco snuffboxes. These items had become popular among the nobility a hundred years earlier. They played thanks to a fine mechanism hidden in the double bottom. These boxes were kept on the table by gentlemen at the time or carried in their pockets. They inspired the production of dedicated music devices. The choice was huge – from boxes that could fit in the palm of your hand to large pieces of furniture. The principle of operation was the same: rivets were nailed to a disk or roller. A comb-like part passed over the rivets when they moved. His teeth shifted and produced tones. The mechanism moved by winding. On more expensive models, the rollers or discs could be changed, with a choice of different melodies.
The most famous music box workshop at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was the Symphonion in Leipzig. She expanded her business to other German and Swiss cities. Greater business potential took Symphonion to America.
They founded the Regina Music Box Company in New York. The boxes were of all shapes and types. They were often made of precious metals and decorated with precious stones and various filigree ornaments.
The mechanisms were becoming more and more perfect. The market grew unstoppable. However, over time, music boxes began to be forgotten in the world. When new media appeared (gramophone, radio and television), sales of music boxes declined. The workshops closed one after another.
Still, music boxes are still produced in the world. The largest production is in Japan. The leading Sankyo company there makes antique models keeping pace with the times. They sell the music of their boxes as ringtones for mobile phones.
In some places, smaller models of decorative music boxes or mechanisms that we can install in DIY boxes can still be found in gift shops.