The Morris Museum, located in Morristown, NJ, recently announced it was awarded The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of historic mechanical musical instruments and automata. The collection represents one of the most significant of its kind in the world.
The prestigious collection from Murtogh D. Guinness, a descendant of the Guinness brewing family, is an extraordinary and diverse collection assembled over 50 years. It features nearly 700 rare mechanical musical instruments and automata dating from the late 16th to the early 20th century. The musical boxes, multi-instrument devices, street organs, orchestrions and mechanically activated life-like figures reflect exquisite craftsmanship, innovative technology and dynamic sound.
Awarded by the Murtogh D. Guinness estate, the collection was a lifelong passion for the late Mr. Guinness, who was an early leader of the Musical Box Society International.
A major milestone in the history of music and technology, the mechanical musical devices encompass the first form of music on-demand, serving as a precursor to today’s recording industry. The collection includes machines playing a wide variety of musical genres covering classical, opera, folk, ragtime, polka and popular music of past eras. Every category of musical machine is represented in the collection, which features cylinder and disc musical boxes.
The automata are mechanical figures designed to mimic human and animal movements and many have musical components. Magicians, acrobats, singing birds, and others showcase the talents of their makers and constitute one of the largest and finest collections of its kind in the world.
“For more than 90 years, the Morris Museum has been a vibrant educational and cultural center in New Jersey,” said Steven H. Miller, executive director of the Morris Museum. “We are thrilled to have been given the extraordinary Murtogh D. Guinness Collection. The Morris Museum looks forward to being an international destination for this unique subject.”
Mechanical musical instruments effectively paved the way for today’s sound entertainment industry with its records, audiotapes and compact discs. First made in Switzerland and France during the late 18th century as an expensive luxury item, cylinder musical boxes survive to provide a living link to the arias, overtures and waltzes of the time. The production of disc musical boxes in the 19th century was expanded to Switzerland and Germany as well as the United States, where New Jersey cities such as Rahway and Jersey City became the home of some of America’s most important musical box productions. Machines made in New Jersey were relatively affordable and played popular music making them more appealing and accessible to the masses. These mechanical musical instruments allowed people to have music on-demand for the first time, profoundly changing leisure habits and giving way to the new phonograph, which permanently transformed the way people enjoyed music.
“The Morris Museum is fortunate to be the recipient of this historic collection that represents a pivotal chapter in the evolution of music, art, entertainment, and much more,” said Ellen M. Snyder-Grenier, curator of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection. “The exhibition will provide yet another fun, family-friendly experience for visitors, as it touches on everything from science and technology to magic, illusion, history and art.”
To house this world-class collection, the Morris Museum plans to build a new wing with a suite of galleries that will be interactive, engaging and will include educational adventures in sight and sound for the whole family. A temporary, initial exhibition is currently open to the public and the permanent exhibition is scheduled to be unveiled in the new wing in 2006. Ultimately, the museum envisions permanent, changing and traveling exhibitions of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection.
Founded in 1913, the Morris Museum explores and celebrates the arts, sciences, and history through exhibitions, educational programs, performing arts and special events. The museum serves over 210,000 adults and children each year.
The Morris Museum, located at 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike) in Morristown, NJ, is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.Sunday: 1–5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $7 for adults and $5 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is always free for museum members and is free to the public every Thursday between 1 and 8 p.m. For more information, call 973-971-3700, or visit www.morrismuseum.org.
More information about the Guinness Collection available this fall on: www.morrismuseum.org
Overview of the Morris Museum
Tracing its roots to 1913 in historic Morristown, New Jersey, the Morris Museum is one of the largest museums in the state, serving more than 210,000 children, adults, seniors and families annually. It is also one of the first museums in the nation to be accredited by the American Association of Museums and continues to be recognized as one of the state’s most dynamic cultural institutions.
Since 1997, the Morris Museum has been designated a Major Arts Institution by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, in recognition of the museum’s “solid history of artistic excellence, substantial programming and broad public service.” The museum is also recognized as a Qualified Organization of the New Jersey Cultural Trust. Offering first-rate performances for the whole family, the Morris Museum’s Bickford Theatre is a distinguished member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance and is affiliated with the Actors Equity Association.
For more than 90 years, the mission of the Morris Museum has been to elevate the cultural consciousness, stimulate the mind and enhance quality of life by advancing the understanding and enjoyment of the visual and performing arts, natural and physical sciences, and humanities. The museum is committed to organizing exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances and educational programs in a welcoming, inclusive and creative environment that responsibly uses all museum resources, including stewardship of a permanent collection.
A World-Class Permanent Collection
In addition to the Guinness Collection, the Morris Museum boasts more than 48,000 items in its permanent collection, which is especially strong in the areas of fine art, decorative art, costumes/textiles, dolls and toys, natural sciences, geology/paleontology, and anthropology.
Fine Arts: The fine arts collection is rooted in 19th and 20th century European and American painting and sculpture. Highlights include Pan of Rohallion, a bronze 1890 sculpture by the Gilded Age sculptor Frederick MacMonnies; an unusual night image by the 19th century French painter Jean Baptiste Corot; an idyllic Pastoral Landscape painted by the 18th century Welsh Romantic artist Richard Wilson; and works by American landscape painters who worked in New Jersey, including Andrew Melrose, Thomas Moran and Charles Warren Eaton. A growing collection of works by modern and contemporary artists include regional New Jersey artists, represented in the collection with sculptural works by Roy Crosse and Marion Held, prints and works on paper by artists including W. Carl Burger, Willie Cole, Mona Brody and Leon Golub and works by internationally renowned artists such as Sandro Chia, Elizabeth Murray and Gregory Amenoff.
Decorative Arts: The decorative arts collection contains historic and contemporary ceramics, glass and silver, both handmade and manufactured in America and Europe. Major types and styles are represented, including early studio glass, children’s china and Tiffany silver. The glass collection has recently been enlarged by donations of studio glass works by various glass artists from the 1960s and 1970s, strengthening the museum’s stellar collection. This includes works by Dale Chihuly, Dan Daily and Antoine Leperlier. Recent donations of ceramic pieces by master New Jersey potter Albert Green are significant additions to the collection.
Costumes and Textiles: The museum’s costume and textile collection includes both American and international examples. American textiles are represented by a selection of Amish quilts, coverlets and samplers with regional origins, and lace. International holdings include Kuba Velvets from Africa, Mexican and European weaving and embroidery, and woven silk panels from China. The Morris Museum’s extensive costume collection contains clothing and accessories dating as early as the mid- to late 1700s and as recently as the latest fashions designed by Pucci and House of Scaasi. Many pieces have historical significance, such as a striking gown worn to an inaugural ceremony for Abraham Lincoln, while still more are representative of styles significant to the history of fashion, highlighting, for example, the 1920s. While the majority of the costume collection reflects trends in American or European fashion, it also contains a number of international costumes from places such as Japan, China, and the Middle East.
Dolls and Toys: This collection is comprised of 19th and 20th century childhood playthings such as mechanical and transportation toys; games; ride-on toys; children’s furniture; and European and American dolls from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Highlights include the Heizer Doll Collection, made between 1930 and 1960 by Chatham doll-maker Dorothy Heizer; a vast international doll collection established in 1943; European and American dolls represented by early examples of Peg-wooden dolls; 1850s German glazed china head dolls; and French fashion dolls.
Natural Sciences: The natural sciences collection encompasses vertebrates — mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish; invertebrates — arthropods, sponges, echinoderms and mollusks; and a limited collection of botanical materials. The collection includes mounts and skeletons, mollusk shells, insects, specimens preserved in liquids and live specimens. Endangered and extinct species and non-regional fauna add important interpretive perspectives.
Anthropology: The museum has an impressive collection of ethnographic and archaeology artifacts. Materials from the Plains and Northeast Woodland areas comprise the North American collection. Highlights include artifacts donated by the Captain William Philo Clark collection, with impressive examples of beadwork and a 1870s Sioux warrior’s fringed leather shirt ascribed to the distinguished Sioux leader, Crazy Horse.
Geology/Paleontology: The museum’s geology and paleontology collection is its largest and is regarded as one of the best in New Jersey. The collection focuses largely on specimens from New Jersey with a 100 percent representation of New Jersey minerals including Franklin and Watchung Mountain materials and an outstanding micro mount collection. The rock collection is maintained primarily for educational purposes. The fossil collection includes objects from the local region, with excellent examples of regional dinosaur tracks.
Musical Ring with Animated Scene :
Above: This 18-carat gold musical ring combines the arts of the jewelry designer, the goldsmith, the engraver, the enameller, the stone setter, and the first generation of musical box makers. Sitting atop a flared, adjustable shank, the case that contains the mechanism is less than 1/2 inch thick, is decorated with patterns pressed into the gold from the reverse side – known as “repoussé”– and further set with turquoise.
The scene depicts a music session in an elegant drawing room, replete with a hanging oil lamp, a bird sitting on a three-legged music stand, and a pet dog. When set into motion, the seated woman hand-cranks a “serinette” – an organ used to train birds to sing melodies – and the man conducts the tempo with his violin bow.
Since the ring was made in Geneva, it seems fitting that the tune the ring plays is “Le Ranz des Vaches,” an ancient cow-herders’ song that symbolizes the Swiss motherland. The makers, Piguet & Capt, were in partnership from 1802 to 1811, and so the music holds added significance as a song of resistance, as Geneva was then under occupation by France.
Harpiste Mauresque (Moorish Harpist):
Left: Parisian automata makers often looked around them for their subject matter – to the numerous fairs, festivals and international expositions taking place in their city, many of which featured people from far – off countries, who were then considered “exotic.”
An example is this highly animated harpist, who sits on an octagonal stand; she was marketed by Vichy as a “Harpiste Mauresque.” Made by Gustave Vichy, Paris, France, circa 1880.
Headless Clown Magician:
Above: An adorable clown performs a trick that results in his head disappearing and then magically reappearing on a table with his eyes blinking. A gentle wave of the feather fan and the head reappears on the clown’s body. Made by Phalibois in France, the piece stands 33-1/2 inches high.
Street Organ with Animated Figures:
Above: Even though this street (or barrel) organ is heavy – it contains a hand-driven mechanism and four ranks of organ pipes – the organ-grinder who owned it had to carry it from place to place with the aid of a leather strap fitted to its side handles. The lid opens to reveal a display of 16 animated characters, including Napoleon Bonaparte, and the 22-key organ plays 10 tunes, including the “Bonaparte March.”
The pinning on a rotating, wooden music cylinder, or barrel, activates the music – as well as the characters that twirl and spin. The moving figures were actually part of the act, as the grinder would recount entertaining stories about each of the characters to his or her audience.
This organ’s maker was probably Ignatz Blasius Bruder of Simonswald and Waldkirch in the Black Forest, Germany, whose family descendants continued to build organs well into the 20th century.
“The Encore” Automatic Banjo:
Left: Imagine being able to “play” the banjo without taking any lessons! Invented by Charles B. Kendall in 1896, the nickel activated “Encore” was a familiar sight at amusement arcades, soda fountains and hotel lobbies. Eager listeners dropped in a coin and watched four metal “fingers” pluck the strings along with 10 finger-buttons on the banjo’s bridge that determined the sound of each note. The hidden, punched music roll was programmed with popular tunes of the day, including the two-step and march. A rarity of its time, the Encore ran on electrical power and could be sold only where power was available. They would install and maintain the instrument on-site at public venues. The piece was made by the American Automusic Co., New York City, circa 1901. It was distributed by the American Automatic Banjo Co. of New Jersey.
Left: This almost-life size figure depicts a man playing a flute, fingering the instrument for each tune. His head motions to the instrument for each selection, then away at the end of the melody, as he intermittently blinks his eyelids. The music is actually provided by a four-tune organ with Vienna flute pipes to feign or imitate the sound of the real flute. The entire, spring-wound mechanism, including the organ, is contained within the figure’s torso.
This model was patented by Alexandre Nicolas Théroude in 1866, in Paris, France, and his signature can be found on the interior. Another Parisian automata maker, Jean Roullet, later adopted the model.
“La Mascotte” :
Left: This figure represents a character from the comic opera, La Mascotte. In its time, the opera was wildly popular – playing some 1,700 times in Paris alone from 1880 to 1897. A cylinder musical movement, concealed in the body, plays Audran’s La Mascotte waltz (1880) plus Mme. Boniface (1883). As the figure moves, the basket lid opens to reveal a chirping bird! Made by Gustave Vichy, Paris, France. Circa 1885
Mephistopheles, Model No. 1:
Left: This large figure is styled after the devilish character in Charles Gounod’s opera and was marketed by Lambert as “Mephistopheles, Model No. 1.” To a waltz from Faust and the Aida March, “Mephisto” turns and nods his head and blinks his eyes. While his right hand moves as if strumming the music, his lower jaw moves as if he is singing a song (the music is actually provided by a concealed, cylinder musical movement). Lambert exhibited this particular model at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris.
Symphonion “Eroica” Hall Clock:
Left: An imposing presence, the Symphonion “Eroica” combines a Lenzkirch clock (made in Germany’s Black Forest region) with a music box that plays three discs simultaneously. Though disc music boxes were developed in Germany in the 1880s as a lower-cost alternative to the traditional cylinder boxes, some models were still quite expensive – like the “Eroica.” This model was marketed in the United States for $300 in 1898.
Maid Dusting a Portrait:
Left: Once wound up, this figure dusts a portrait of a man to the sound of a musical box melody — until she throws up her arms up in shock when she notices the man's eyes and mouth moving! This automaton is considerably smaller in size than most of the period. Its maker, Louis Renou, appealed to a wide audience by making automata like this that were smaller, less complex, and therefore less expensive than those of his competitors. Made in Paris, France, circa 1900, this piece is one of only two examples of this model known to survive today.
Popper’s “Rex” Orchestrion:
Left: Mammoth “orchestrions” such as this were designed to imitate the sound of a full orchestra. The instrumentation of the Popper’s “Rex” includes a keyboardless piano, ranks of organ pipes that imitate violin, cello and flute, a xylophone, orchestra bells, a bass drum, a snare drum, a cymbal, and a triangle. With its commanding sound and colorful musical arrangements, the “Rex” would have occupied a prominent place in a beer garden, a dance hall, or another major, indoor public venue. The elegant case features an Alpine scene that illuminates with a rushing waterfall and a train that moves across an aqueduct.
Made by Popper & Co., Leipzig, Germany circa 1915-1916