The recent discussion of musical photo albums with small Thorens disc
movements brings to mind an article that appeared in v. 51, no. 2
(Autumn 2005) of the MBSI's "Mechanical Music." It was written by
Brian Shaw and titled "Thorens, Inc. versus the U.S. Government:
Exploring the definition of 'music box' in the American court system."
The theme of the article is Thorens' attempts to qualify for lower
import duties for some of the musical novelties which it was exporting
to the U.S. market. The article describes and illustrates a few of the
everyday household items into which Thorens installed one of its
In 1943 Thorens sued the tariff collector of the Port of New York
because the collector classified Thorens' musical toilet paper holder
as a "manufacture of wood" (taxed at 33-1/3%) rather than, as Thorens
claimed it should be classified, as a "music box" (taxed at 20%).
Thorens also sued over a musical earthenware baby dish. No Thorens
musical photo album is mentioned, but it is clear that Thorens
"musicalized" almost anything that could be made musical and be sold at
a profit. It also seems to me that Thorens could not have manufactured
in-house the array of products into which they installed Thorens
movements. They must have relied on other manufacturers to produce
the objects they needed, shaped in whatever way necessary to receive
a Thorens cylinder or disc movement.
I have no doubt, though, that Thorens designed and created the union of
"object" and "musical movement" underlying each item.
Irondequoit, New York