The History of the Music Box

by Gregory Burton

The History of the Music Box

Music boxes have been a collector’s item for generations. If you’ve been wondering how these little music players came about, we break down the history of the music box right here for you.

It All Started with Small Bells and Tiny Hammers

Before cellphones, telephones, and even clocks with dials existed, large bells were used to tell time and alarm people. And it was these very bells that would influence two German inventors to place small bells and tiny hammers into a watch to create the first automatic musical clock. It was this design that would lead to the first audio instrument that people could listen to in their homes – the music box. 

From Bells to Teeth and Combs

The first music box is believed to have been invented in Switzerland in the 1770s by placing small musical movements into watch cases. These were cylinder style music boxes that used a small tuned-steel comb that played pins set in a cylinder. By the 1800s the music boxes had shrunk noticeably in size and many new developments started to take place that improved the look of the case and added more teeth to produce greater sound.  

Then Competition Became Fierce

Then in 1885, German native Paul Lochmann introduced the very first circular disc music box, known as the Symphonion. The disc revolved and was struck with goose quills to produce beautiful sounds. Modern production methods eventually lowered prices and simplified the manufacturing process, allowing the boxes to be sold at reasonable prices making them even more accessible. Then one day it all came crashing down, thanks to a famous inventor by the name of Thomas Edison.

Then Came the World’s First Record Player

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, the earliest record player that soon replaced the music box in popularity. Major players in the music box industry did everything they could to compete, including creating an automatic disc changing machine. However, Edison continued to improve his design, eventually eroding away the interest in the music box and paving the way for wax records.

A Collector’s Gem

Although the record player overtook the music box in popularity, these small boxes remained extremely popular among collectors throughout the ages. And here at Frankenmuth Clock Company, you can find some of the most beautiful music box designs to enjoy in your own home. 

Get hand-painted designs and popular songs with one of our custom music boxes. Shop online or visit our store today!