“Capital” cuff music box, model A57, with ten music cuffs, c. 1895.
When new, the music box cost about $15 and came with eight pre-selected songs. (No exchanges!) Extra songs were .20 each.
The music box is in its original oak case with natural finish. There is an oval brass escutcheon on front around a key hole. The winding handle is on the right side. The lid is hinged in back and opens to stand upright, displaying the original color lithograph in center of lid, inset, surrounded by wood trim. The lithograph has a bit of damage becase of the way the lid contacts with the works when it’s closed. At the bottom, there is a narrow compartment in front for storing cuffs, lined with dark blue cloth.
It came to us with ten music cuffs, made of tin, coated with asphaltum. They’re cone-shaped with protruding metal spurs punched out from inside. Each originally had a gold eagle on blue background holding a banner that read, “Capital Patented,” but most of the cuffs are heavily worn and have lost their coating. The name of tune each cuff played is on a label along lower edge.
We were able to identify about half of them, mostly polkas and orchestral tunes. One “A Bicycle Built for Two” is identified, but doesn’t appear on the list of available songs made by the company. A little mystery!
The exact date of the music box was another mystery we attempted to solve through research.
This music box was made by the F.G. Otto & Sons company. The company was a manufacturer of medical implements, including an electro-medical machine, before they began to make music boxes.
They made several different types of music boxes, including the Regina-style disc “Criterion” and coin operated music boxes. The cuff design of the “Capital” was not popular because of the difficulties in changing the cuff.
Regina Music Box Company sued for copyright infringement and won damages of around three thousand dollars. Shortly thereafter, F. G. Otto & Sons became insolvent. They were next embroiled in a complicated lawsuit which boiled down to the question of whether the owner knew the company was going out of business when he borrowed a substantial sum of money. Regina was involved in this suit, so it may be they were one of the creditors that were suing for a piece of the assets before the mortgage was settled.
A report in the Annual Report of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor and Industries of New Jersey (Volume 27, Part 1904) reports that a fire did about $5000 damage to the Otto & Sons factory, “manufacturers of surgical implements,” and reference is made to them in a legal journal as still being in operation in 1904.
Various sources give a range of dates, but they seem to almost all fall within the 1892-1897 range, though some claim as high as 1909. The songs included with the music box seem to support the date of around 1895.
Research, Research, Research: Mental conditions are just like “physical” diseases and viruses, varied and studied and treated as smallpox and HIV. You wouldn’t want to write about a character suffering from cholera without knowing about the symptoms and treatments, would you? This also applies to conditions like autism or ADD; although not illnesses per se, they can make things difficult for a child. And speaking of difficulties…