This cylinder music box is relatively simple with six airs or tunes. It had been owned by Ralph M. Heintz who was president and editor of the Musical Box Society International 1982-1983. Many manufacturers made boxes like this with no name or initials to identify the maker. Without a tune sheet, the maker is doubly difficult to pin down. The general specifications and the escutcheons around the levers suggest Mermod Freres of Saint-Croix, similar in detail to this box: mmd.foxtail.com/Auctions/Chartres0205/844.jpg
The size is 22.2 cm wide, 52 long, 14.5 high. Cylinder 27.7 cm long and 5.5 dia., and the spring case 6.4 outside diameter and spring pocket 3.0 deep. There appear to be 113 teeth in a span of 268mm, and I measured 15 teeth in 40mm. Since this doesn't calculate out very well in a quick check, I should probably remeasure the teeth and spacing.
While it does play six tunes, the identity of them was pretty muddy since the tune sheet once tacked inside the lid has apparently been missing since the time the lid was last refinished. Here is the list, and you may click on them to listen. If you have any more precise identification, I would be very pleased to modify the list. The selections seem to have been established European opera favorites, so they are unlikely to give a close indication of the date of manufacture. These are .wav files and, while larger than mp3 files, should play on almost any computer which uses a web browser. If you are viewing this page in a text viewer, you have my sympathies!
1. Jetzt giesst sich aus ein sanft'rer Glanz,
Carl Maria von Weber - 1824 This aria is listed as Von
Jugend auf in dem Kampfgefeld, of which this is the second theme.
2. Tyrolienne, used in Guillaume Tell. Gioacchino Rossini - 1829 Popularized as The Green Hills of Tyrol, The Green Hills of Tyrone, and A Scottish Soldier
3. Ranz des Vaches, used in Guillaume Tell, Gioacchino Rossini - 1829 This delightful folk classic has a marvelous history and is used in several classical works, and was against the law to sing in Versailles.
4. De cet aveu si tendre (duet), La fille du Regiment, Donizetti -1840 but where does the coda come from?
5. God Save the Queen (?arr. von Weber 1818 for Jubel-Overtüre and for "Du hohe Rautenzeig" in Music for a Ceremonial Prologue, 1819)
6. Waltz, La grande duchesse de Gerolstein?, Jacques Offenbach? -1867
Seeing that the nickel plated brass control escutcheons are marked in English, I would give a first guess that this box is Swiss and was exported to the British market around 1867-80. Since number 5 was the finale of a von Weber operatic Jubel-Overture, it does double duty and fits the operatic theme.
As you listen you will hear that the comb is clearly out of tune and that a number of notes which you would expect to hear in an arpeggio or chord are irregular. Such is the way with musical boxes, and the fine adjustment of this kind is the most time consuming and perhaps the most expensive part of a restoration.
It appears the comb was thoroughly worked over from the marks on it and the note weights, and new dampers have been installed. Fortunately, no teeth have needed replacement and no cylinder pins seem to be leaning over, but the job which was started was left undone for another caretaker to contemplate. Tuning is off and the pins setts which should favor the melody often are softer on the melody instead. The comb support in brass is marked off with the names of the notes, and the convention used in marking is apparently in solfeggio notation. Two castings are marked SBI for Société Billon et Isaac. à Saint-Jean (Genève) which supplied castings to many makers, but this doesn't directly indicate which maker.
The plate is cast iron with the top ridged and painted gold, a very typical style in the late 19th century. Smooth finishes are difficult to achieve and the ribbing will serve as-cast without much preparation than a little leveling of the peaks before painting. The plate casting is marked "SBI" also.
The pinned cylinder end plates are clearly marked 42148 with a "blank" mark of 45 on one end. The serial numbers do not match those on the winding barrel and lever, so it seems the barrel and lever were borrowed from a donor box at one time. The case screws and other woodwork do not align well, perhaps for the same reason.
The little pillow blocks supporting the cylinder are similar in shape. The one at the governor end has a deep slot and a hole from the cylinder side which probably held a lever to advance the snail, changing tunes each revolution. The lever would have been held up with a wire spring and the pin in the view directly above would have been involved in the repeat function.. The slot faces the rear where the cylinder advance hook is located. Now there is a lever flat on the bedplate with a hook reaching up to the snail for advance.
The spring barrel is 44mm in diameter. The barrel and the support blocks are stamped "69" and the winding lever "39134".
Quite a solid governor, also marked "69". The "endless screw" and drive gear look quite fresh with no flattening or bent portions. I used Nye fluorocarbon grease which has a very high load factor and keeps the parts from biting through the grease and dragging. Initially, the heavy oil on the bearings and screw seemed only to make them sticky and drag. The jewel in the top bow looks like a glass part and a piece of clock spring has been cut into a little circle has been slipped under it to act as the actual thrust bearing. It showed some color from having the pinion scrubbing on it but no wear. Even considering some parts have been swapped from other boxes, the mechanism shows almost no wear or screw slot damage, but a considerable amount of buffing and fiddling.
The spring barrel has this Geneva index wheel with countersunk hole to fit the commercial grade shoulder screw.
Oddly enough, I really didn't look much at the bottom of the box until Kevin McElhone asked if there was a MBSGB registry number on the bottom in the format Rnnn. I see the bottom has no Rnnn number but yet a third maker's number 12683, and in broad marking pen "6671 RITA FORD". Since Mrs. Ford and Ralph H. were members of MBSI, it is likely that this box was either purchased from Mrs. Ford or worked on at her shop. I have emailed the shop asking if they have any information on the box several times and have had no reply. Both Heintz and Ford were MBSI officials.
Many thanks to Reg Smith, Craig Smith, Joe Berman, Mike Richter, Richard M. Wilson, Michael Kaye, Roy C. Dicks, Kevin McElhone, Don Wilder, Jean-Marc Cerutti, Robbie Rhodes and those on the MMD and opera-l for their help in characterizing the box and the tunes.
Please let me know if you have any other ideas about the origin, history and tunes of this box, or suggestion on its care and corrections to my notable misconceptions contained on the page!!