Holiday Bells Ring Out: Finding Angel Chimes

In late fall, I went to an estate sale that featured a lot of Christmas items. Among them was a small box with candles and a “musical glockenspiel.” I remembered my grandmother having one of these and as a child being mesmerized by the way the little metal angels moved around, ringing the bells. I just had to have it and the price was quite reasonable.


Musical glockenspiel, found with rod missing

We were recently putting up our Christmas decorations, but before we finished, I came across the “angel chimes” on the shelf near our candles. I was so happy! Hubby looked at it and at first did not understand the concept. I told him how it would work, asked him to finish the “assemblage” and came back later. But to my surprise, it was not put together! This was most unusual since he is very much the engineer and is known as “the papa that can fix anything.” But alas, this was not one of the items he could fix. That’s because there was a little rod missing! I was very disappointed, but vowed to find another one down the road.

It raised my level of curiosity about these charming little holiday pieces. There are a lot of sites on the Internet that sell them and I may just bite the bullet and get another one (after confirming that it is complete). Their history is quite fascinating. They originated in Germany and were very popular, being manufactured until World War II. After that, the export business dropped off and most of this type of item was made in other countries. This was in part due to the war but also because the 1905 design patents for these (to German toy maker Adrian & Stock) was ending. Most of the ones we see now are from Sweden and very new products are from China.

As soon as I get one up and running, I’ll be glad to hear the questions from the grandchildren. They’ll surely want to know how this turns without a battery or plug-in, why the angels can make the little chimes work, and probably, “how old is that?” Their mechanics are pretty simple – the candles are lit and this causes a turbine at the top to turn. This powers a series of brass angels, who move around in a circle and strike the little chimes. The result is a lovely tinkling sound!

These are so charming and remain popular today, based on the number of them for sale in stores and sites. A sure-fire conversation piece and once again, listen for the “Oh, we had one of those” from visitors.



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