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A generic jack-in-the-box
Two boys playing with a jack-in-the-box in an 1863 illustration
Jack-in-the-box after Paul Gavarni.

A jack-in-the-box is a children's toy that outwardly consists of a box with a crank.[1] When the crank is turned, a music box mechanism in the toy plays a melody. After the crank has been turned a sufficient amount of times (such as at the end of the melody), there is a "surprise":[2] the lid pops open and a figure, usually a clown or jester, pops out of the box. Some jack-in-the-boxes open at random times when cranked, making the startle even more effective. Many of those that use "Pop Goes the Weasel" open at the point in the melody when the word "pop" would be sung. In 2005, the jack-in-the-box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame due to its frequent charm that captivates children's interest.[3] There you will find all types of versions of the toy, stating from the beginning versions, and ending with the most recently manufactured versions.


A theory as to the origin of the jack-in-the-box is that it comes from the 14th-century English prelate Sir John Schorne,[4] who is often pictured holding a boot with a devil in it. According to folklore, he once cast the devil into a boot to protect the village of North Marston in Buckinghamshire. In French, a jack-in-the-box is called a "diable en boîte" (literally "devil in a box").


Originally, the jack-in-the-box was a made out of wood however, as new technology began to come out the toy transformed into printed cardboard[5], then around the 30s, the jack-in-the-box became a wind up toy made from tin. Over the years, the jack-in-the-box has evolved into characters other than the clown, such as Winnie the Pooh, the Cat in the Hat, the Three Little Pigs, kittens, dogs, Curious George, Santa Clause, giraffes, and so on.[6]


Starting in 1935 and continuing for 20 years, the first company to take on the distribution of the toy, was a very small company named the Joy Toy. This company is located in Italy as well as the Netherlands. Since then, Fischer Price, Chad Valley, as well as Tomy, have all taken major parts in distributing the jack-in-the-box.[7]


  1. ^ Sobey, Ed; Sobey, Woody (2008), The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch a Sketch, Boomerang, and More, Chicago Review Press, p. 71, ISBN 1613743092.
  2. ^ Hayes, Justin Cord (2012), The Unexpected Evolution of Language: Discover the Surprising Etymology of Everyday Words, Adams Media, p. 106, ISBN 1440542791.
  3. ^ "Jack-in-the-Box | National Toy Hall of Fame". www.toyhalloffame.org. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  4. ^ Vince, John (2008), Discovering Saints in Britain (3rd ed.), Osprey Publishing, p. 29, ISBN 0747804753.
  5. ^ "Jack-in-the-Box | National Toy Hall of Fame". www.toyhalloffame.org. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  6. ^ "history of pop up toys and jack in the boxes". www.j2e.com. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  7. ^ "history of pop up toys and jack in the boxes". www.j2e.com. Retrieved 2018-10-26.

External links[edit]

Media related to Jack-in-the-box at Wikimedia Commons