Hi group, I'm very pleased to wish you all Happy Holidays. And to
continue one of my favorite subjects: musical toys!
Robbie Rhodes wrote in MMDigest 981226, "... this device was patent-
ed long ago (probably in the 1930s), and licensed to Mattel Toys,
by a man named Duncan."
Mattel used this patent from Ted Duncan, who also made all of
the arrangements for an incredible assortment of toys besides the
"Pop Goes the Weasel" sort. Some of the earliest ones are all metal,
and have assorted "dancing" dolls on the top: "Rube Rabbit", "The
Square Dancing Twins", etc. Then they discovered Monkey Organs!
There are always one or two rubber band "Hurdy Gurdy" toys on eBay --
a totally incorrect name, but used through many variations of a toy
monkey organ. Then they added a monkey hopping up and down on the top,
still in metal. Then Mattel discovered that they could make toys with
plastic, and back comes the monkey organ in red plastic!
There are also some rather interesting variations, still rubber band:
The "Farmer in the Dell" is a large metal barn with the farmer and his
family revolving on a metal disc. The neat part of this toy is that
each character arrives at the correct time (when the toy is operating
correctly -- in other words, not often) and the cheese stands alone at
the end. All through rubber bumps activating a teeter-totter sort of
Along the way, Mattel produced a series of rubber band musical books
also. Great way to keep kids interested in reading.
One comment about rubber band mechanisms: in many cases the whole
toy is sealed, and there is no fix to them without destroying the toy.
The very few that are accessible an sometimes be made to turn by
putting fabric glue (a latex sort of product) on the turning shaft.
The glue dries but stays soft and a little tacky, and encourages the
old rubber band to turn. In some cases, however, the rubber has dried
hard or taken a set and that is a nearly impossible problem to fix.
At some point, this rubber band mechanism must have been licensed
outside of Mattel. I recently found an advertising promotion type deck
of cards, with the name of the gift giver and the name of the birthday
person on the box and the cards; the card holder box plays "Happy
In 1959, Mattel introduced the "Strum Fun Getar." This toy used the
same wire comb, but plucks it with bumps on a plastic disc! Neat,
a fun toy, and it came with many discs, so mom didn't throw the toy out
because the single tune was driving her crazy!
Not to be outdone, Fisher Price used plastic bumps on plastic discs
for many toys. Some of their toys are really outstanding musical
devices, and a great way to introduce children to music boxes. The
Fisher-Price phonograph is my favorite, but the carousel swing is also
neat. Each disc plays 2 songs, one on each side, on a standard type
musical comb using star wheels.
Then Tomy made a disc operated, battery powered piano that is somewhat
confused because it plays whistles. There is also a train that plays
discs using whistles.
Another day, we can discuss the wind powered toys...
I hope some of you will share your musical toys with the group. We were
all kids once!