Baker Overture Music Box was manufactured in Switzerland around 1875. For perspective, U.S. Grant was the American president at the time. This is a cylinder machine, and an example of the beautiful craftsmanship that went into these machines. The music is read off of the brass cylinder, similar to the barrel organs. If you look closely, you will see hundreds of tiny hand-set pins that strike the musical comb, which is visible in the front of the brass cylinder. The music box plays ten songs – each song is one rotation of the cylinder, after which it shifts very slightly to play the next song.
Baker was a distributor of music boxes at a time when there were few – if any – actual factories in which they were produced. Rather, it was a cottage industry. Boxes were made in private homes, often with the women in the family applying the pins to the brass cylinder.
The box is likely made out of a “burl walnut veneer.” Burl is created when knots are present in the wood when it comes from a tree. Stress on the tree during its growth creates the texture you can see.
Sounding boards used in the construction of violins, pianos, organs and other instruments tend to be made from Spruce, as they bounce sound much better than other types of wood. Stradivarius’ instruments are unique because of the conditions in which the trees were grown from which the wood was produced. Having survived a mini-ice age, the environment in which they grew cannot be replicated, so the sound cannot be reproduced.