Saturday, February 11, 2023

Music Boxes

 There's Music In the Air

by Martha Rogers

Many little girls have been the recipient of a music box with a dancing ballerina. I had one as a young girl and loved it. Sadly, it disappeared in one of our many moves.

I love music boxes of all kinds from the old fashioned ones that are actually boxes to the water globes and figurines we can find today. In working on my historical Christmas novel for 2023, I researched music boxes and found some interesting facts.

The first thing I discovered was that they date back to the 18th century when the first one, most likely in Switzerland, was made. They were designed to play music using metal prongs that were plucked by by a revolving metal cylinder that had perforations and protrusions producing a tinkling sound of a familiar piece of music. Later, flat discs were used to create the same effect.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the music box as a mechanical musical instrument that is sounded when tuned metal prongs, or teeth, mounted on a flat comb are made to vibrate by contact with a revolving cylinder or disc driven by clockwork mechanism. The plucking causes the pointed ends to vibrate and produce musical notes. The deeper the teeth are cut into the comb, the lower the pitch.   

This is an example of an early disc player from Leipzig, Germany 1886

This disc player used a cardboard disc, patented by Paul Lochmann of Gohlis, Germany. Because of its flimsiness, it was soon replaced by a metallic one.

However, before that as early as the 13th century, ingenious men used a cylinder with pins and cams that hit bells and caused the bells to ring. A Flemish clockmaker, Nicholas Vallin, in 1598 produced a wall-mounted clock that used a pinned barrel playing tuned bells within in the structure. The barrel could also be programmed to provide different sounds. Another clockmaker, Ahasuerus Fromanteel did the same with a table clock with bells on the quarter hour from a pinned barrel that could be changed for different sounds.

In 1796, the stack of bells was replaced by a comb with multiple pre-tuned metallic notes that played various musical pieces                                              programmed onto the barrel.  


These early music boxes were the fore-runner of player pianos and the early phonograph invented by Thomas Edison. They both used the same principal of the early music boxes.

Here are a few examples of early music boxes. Some are much more elaborate, but the simple ones were just a beautiful musically.


As inventions progressed, some of the old standard items began to disappear. Although music boxes are still popular today, they don't hold the same popularity of the early days. Two of the oldest companies, Nicole-Freres and Regina Company, known for its Regina Music Box either closed or dropped the product from their line.

In 1978 the San Francisco Music Box Company was founded and opened over 300 stores across the country, the first one being in San Francisco. Most of my collection comes from this company. They helped revive the popularity of the music box in the US. Although they do not operate their own retail stores any more, their products are featured by well-known retailers across the country as well as Canada and even in Europe.

Below is my collection of Christmas music boxes, globes and figurines.

And this is my favorite San Francisco Music Box. It was a gift for Christmas from my husband over thirty years ago. 

Here's another example of the ways a music box can be made. This is a gift from a fellow writer and I love it. Open the drawer to play the music and the carriage goes back and forth.

Today, music boxes of all types and varieties may be found. San Francisco Music Box Company has beautiful boxes, snow globes, and figurines on its website, and even Amazon has a wide selection.  

Do you have a music box of some kind or did you ever have one?

Please visit the blog to leave a  comment on this post. 

While hunting for some old books in the attic, Adelaide Wingate finds not only an antique trunk filled with books, but also another smaller chest with the initials BW. Inside, she finds a letter with an unusual poem as a clue to a treasure her great-grandfather buried before his death. A key and instructions are included. The key and poem are to be given to the oldest unmarried grandchild in the youngest generation at the time the key is found, and that is Adelaide.

She enlists the help of a new foreman, Blake Sullivan, hired by her father to run the ranch. Addie begins to care about Blake and believes he cares about her until she discovers that her father hired Blake not only to be foreman of the ranch, but to also woo and wed Addie in return for a share in the ranch. Blake truly loves her, but can his love overcome his deception and regain her trust? 

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to six. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years teaching Freshman English at the college level. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and serves as President of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. 



  1. Thank you for posting today! I love music boxes as well, and I love seeing your collection. I used to spend nights with an elderly woman in our town and she had a huge music box! I only saw it a couple of times, but in my mind it was at least a foot square and had a glass top. It was beautiful!! I used to have a musical jewelry box, long since gone, but I do have one music box now, given as a gift from a treasured writer friend.

    1. I was amazed at how many different kinds of music boxes were made and are available even today. My husband says I can't get any more. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I had a music box with the ballerina, similar to the first picture. I loved it, but I don't know what happened to it. I've had a few other kinds. Sadly, I don't have any now. The article was interesting.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Tammy. Those ballerina music boxes were quite popular. Maybe you could find one you like on Amazon just to have one around. :)