Wooden disc music box and 12 steel discs. The box has the company name 'Polyphon' inlayed in bone on the lid. The exterior has a broken brass clasp and a long horizontal gap with a brass lever and below, a small brass knob. The brass knob is a brake and must be pulled out in order for the lever to be pulled back, which winds the spiral spring on the interior. There is also a smaller gap the right side of the box with a lever with no handle which however, is easily moved left and right.

The lid has a square of paper with cherubs playing various instruments in a garden scene inset on its interior side. The mechanism located on the flat bed features musical combs containing tuned steel teeth. The teeth are plucked by the star wheels located above the engraved steel shield that protects the teeth. There is a brass pressure bar located above the star wheels that has a lever on its rounded head. To raise the pressure bar and insert the disc, the lever must be pushed in. The centre hole of the disc is fitted over the pointed brass knob and the pressure bar is lowered down and lever pulled out to hold the disc in place while revolving.

One side of the discs has a flat surface with holes overall and a printed image of a Roman figure on one side and song titles on the other . On the reverse side of the discs, the punched metal has been folded back to create a 'projection'. It is the projection that turns the star wheels that in turn plucks the tuned steel teeth. These discs are often referred to as 'tune sheets'.
Primary Maker
Production Date
1889-1892
Credit Line
Polyphon Musikwerke, Leipzig, Germany, circa 1890. Although music boxes had been around for over one hundred years beforehand, it was not until the late 19th Century that Polyphons were invented to play separate discs, each with individual tunes. This example belonged to Hans and Ernestine Haverbier who immigrated from Schleswig-Holstein to Inglewood in 1894.
The Polyphon music box plays music from metal discs using a steel comb. The disc is punched with small holes creating the tune. As the disc spins, a ratchet mechanism plucks the tines of the comb, the position of each determining the pitch.
Accession No
TM2003.346

 Share


Can you help us? Click ‘Add Comment’ to share names, details and stories to help enrich the collection.


Be the first to comment.