Nowadays everbody has a CD-player (or is this system already replaced by MP3) and everbody knows people who are still playing old vinyl records. It gets harder when we go further back in time. Until the 1950s we used 78rpm discs, they were introduced round 1910 as a direct result of one of Edison’s inventions. He succeeded to record sound onto a wax cilinder (the disc was introduced later).
Does that mean there was no reproduction of music before Edison??? No, but there was one large difference : before Edison every machine that reproduced sound was built individually and had its own character. After Edison, and as a result of mass production, all machines of one type were exactly the same as all the others and were like clones. Notes are found which described that in the early 16th century a tower was built were bells were played automatically. The hammers were lifted by pins on a large barrel. In the 17th century we find ‘hydraulic organs’ and in the 18th century you can find mantel clocks with small bells inside. In 1795 ‘a carillon without bells and hammers’ was patented by Antoine Favre. The bells and the hammers were replaced by a steel comb with tuned teeth. The musical box was born. However it took a while before the music box appeared on the market. Until 1820 they were only to be found as a part of the base of a clock. From 1820 large numbers of music boxes were made. In the beginning only music boxes with a cylinder and comb. Around 1890 the music box playing steel discs was introduced and the sale of “disc” machines very soon overtook the sales of “cylinder” boxes. The reason was obviou, to get another tune on a disc machine you only needed to buy another disc and not another music box. When Thomas Edison developed his machine to reproduce the human voice, the end of music boxes was in sight. By 1910 almost all music box production was over and very soon, every house could hear a reproduction of the human voice for themselves.
For 100 years music boxes were popular, and now, after another 100 years, they are very collectable and admired around the world