Music Boxes From the 1960s

Written by tonya yirka
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Music Boxes From the 1960s
In the 1960s, this figurine may have hidden a music box in her base. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Music boxes have delighted music lovers since 1796, when the first cylinder music box was invented. During the 1800s, music boxes hit their zenith as they became larger, and the new development of paper discs, multiple cylinders and the addition of "bells" added both length of time to the musical pieces and clearer, more precise tone to the music. With the invention of the phonograph, interest in music boxes began to wane. And by the 1960s, manufacturing music boxes became a risky venture.

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Luxury Boxes

Since the 1930s, problems with expensive, old factory technology and a shrinking market caused some music box companies, such as the Reuge, to branch out and make other items, such as ski bindings, to stay financially solvent. Only about 30 manufacturers of luxury music boxes in Switzerland, the U.S. and Europe remained at the beginning of the 1960s, but by the mid-1960s, Reuge, a Swiss company, returned to the luxury music box industry by manufacturing and using the first machines that made luxury music boxes. This reduced its labour force and offered the boxes for marketing in a shorter time.

Musical Figurines

Music boxes featuring Hummel figurines and many others from Japan were ensconced in porcelain bases with figurines, usually of young boys or girls in old-fashioned attire or Swiss chalets, played popular romantic themes such as "Lara's Theme" from "Dr. Zhivago." To wind up the box, the figurine was turned clockwise.

Jewellery Music Boxes

Girls of all ages owned musical jewellery boxes in the 1960s. Many inexpensive to elaborate boxes featured ballerinas, either on top of the box or on little platform inside the box, that twirled to popular music of the time or classical favourites. These musical boxes of wood, embossed with gold or brass, wound up either by turning a key in a lock or winding a loop of metal attached to the back of the box. The more elaborate boxes had changing movements, in which one cylinder would move sideways to produce another tune on the comb's teeth, and move again to produce the third tune.

Pendant Music Boxes

Miniature boxes became popular in the 1960s. Many tiny pendant-sized music boxes on keychains were distributed by Chadwick Miller. These small, flat music boxes had movements made by the Japanese Sankyo company; some boxes were gold-plated and were hand-wound with either accompanying keys or by flat button winders on the back of the box.


Music boxes built in the 1960s that contain a music cylinder remain repairable today because the music rolls are accessible and not sealed in plastic and riveted closed, as they were in later models.

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