Karl Griesbaum Music Bird Box

I was digging through my grandpa’s collection again, trying to find something really cool and I came across this music box. After some research, I’m pretty sure it was produced by the German firm Karl Griesbaum around the 1940’s. Similar ones as described by antique dealer Troy Duncan are also dated approximately 1940’s. Unfortunately I don’t have the means to test the materials or the resources to work with an appraiser, but based off of other similar boxes by the Griesbaum firm, this box appears to be crafted in sterling silver with a glossy enamel finish. The image is also likely to be handpainted.

Closed music box.
Closed music box.

Another unfortunate thing is that I couldn’t find the wind up key. But, luckily, there are plenty of amazing videos on YouTube that show the music boxes in action. This video by nakrul987 on YouTube really shows the mechanics of the music box. It is quite the automaton! But in general, you just crank the wind up key on the bottom of the box and push the switch to open the lid.

six cam singing bird box movement uploaded by nakrul987

A little history lesson for those who are curious.

According to Flights of Fancy. Mechanical Singing Birds written by Christian & Sharon Bailly, The firm was founded by a clock maker named Karl Griesbaum. Griesbaum began his journey into mechanical music boxes after he was asked to replicate a Swiss snuffbox. These boxes became popular with locals and tourists and cemented his name in music box and snuff box manufacturing. Together with his five children, the Griesbaum family manufactured three grades of music boxes, depending on the materials and the quality of song.

The family felt lasting success until 1988, after Griesbaum passed away. ­­­The art of music boxes was not an interest to young Germans who were beginning to join the work force. So, the firm was sold to Siegfried Wendel. Wendel later on would create Mechanische Musikwerke Manufaktur GmbH in 1991, which to this day continues to manufacture bird music boxes.

I referenced a book but it seems like it’s been out of print for a while. I actually found an excerpt from the website Museum Collection/Музей Собрание. This is a museum in Moscow that focuses on the collection of vintage and culturally significant antiques.

Now more recently, these music boxes appear sleek, rather than ornate. How It’s Made actually featured the Swiss company Reuge in one of their episodes! Prior to Griesbaum’s success, bird music boxes and snuff boxes has a long history in Switzerland and Reuge began manufacturing in 1865! I thought it would be appropriate to find a video on a current Swiss manufacturer.

How Its Made – 635 Mechanical Singing Birds uploaded by How Its Made

My grandpa seemed to appreciate cute ornate vintage items.

Bird popping out from the music box.
Chirp chirp!

I think anything detailed and mechanical drew his interest. That might also explain his appreciation for insects since he specialized in entomology in university. Personally, I would never consider studying insects. I remember receiving a search-and-find book from Scholastic book orders in public school. It was to replace the book I actually ordered which was out of stock by the time they processed my order. So, I ended up with a giant bug book.

I never looked at it since the day I had to pick it up at school.

I have to admit though, insects are interesting little creatures (or occasionally, scary huge creatures). When you observe how insects move and how their features are connected to their body, they also appear like automata. Have you ever watched a fly clean their legs? Or how spiders crawl? (I know, they’re arachnids) They seem to steadily move in a rhythmic pattern, just like mechanical wind up toys. I guess studying insects carries the same appeal as collecting little mechanical music boxes.

By the way, Karl Greisbaum also produced mechanical singing bird cages! This will be featured next week!

Dec 2, 2019 UPDATE:

I ended up finding the key to the bird box! I wrote about it in a separate blog post here! The bird finally found its voice after several decades! 🙂

See you next time!