Mechanical Music Through the Ages

A collection of Mechanical Music and Arcade Machines – highlighting examples of the development in mechanical entertainment over time.


The Collection does not try to be complete in all categories, or even any of them, although I do have my favourites. Rather, it is meant to be a journey into some of the entertainment opportunities and technology changes of the era. Hundreds of years ago, much entertainment was experienced outside the home with music and dance being a large part. Since the beginnings of musical instruments, people have tried to find ways to make them play automatically. This was both a demonstration of the advances in technology at the time and the growing educational and social affluence of the world as it developed. The oldest form of buskers could be seen in market squares entertaining the masses and raising a few coins to feed the family. Overtime, incomes grew, engineers broadened their involvement in changing social opportunities and the general public was able to afford less intricate forms of what the wealthy citizens had long afforded. Entertainment moved to inside the house and very much personal. Think of phonographs, gramophones, pianos, pianolas and the like of examples, that many, if not most of us, could recall from our own past. There was still growth in entertainment outside the home, but a lot of this was coin operated versions that could be accumulated under one roof, such as an amusement hall, which gave local citizens the opportunity to be entertained with a variety of instruments and fairground amusement items, at a modest cost.

The intricate design, the craftsmanship and the ingenuity of these mechanical wonders has always fascinated me. I was encouraged to find out how they worked and as and when the opportunity arose, acquire items before they were destroyed, or went to land fill which so many of these great mechanical wonders did and unfortunately, still do today.

Today I make less mistakes than I did 40 years ago with restorations, but I can still say I learn something each time I tackle a new restoration, or engage in conversation with fellow restorers – many of whom have forgotten more than they know – until a new question to an old problem is given the light of day once more. This reminds me that there is much to hand on to future generations who may also form a love affair with these mechanical marvels at some time in their future. I struggle with how best to do this, but remain ever grateful for the Societies and individual artisans that exist in the world, who are so willing to assist others attempting to do the same in their small patch.

This website is a work in progress which I hope you enjoy. Please check back from time to time to see the changes made.