David's Den - "On Board the Yacht, In the Summer Hotel..."

History of the Regina Music Box

By: David Moon and Al Meekins • Sep 03, 2011 • 0 Comments

Before vinyls, eight-tracks, cassettes, and CD's, there was (and still is) the magic of the Regina music box. Like those that followed, the music box has it's own distinct sound and personality, like no other. As the advertisement says below, one could enjoy.."Musical Entertainment Everywhere....On Board the Yacht, In Public Places, In the Summer Hotel, and In the Home.... Plays 1000 Tunes" Sounds a little bit like an iPod commercial of today, albeit it with a little different twist.

Anyway, here is some pretty interesting history about the old time Regina music box. Enjoy!

The Regina Music Box story begins at the Symphonion Music Box Co. in Gohis, Germany in 1885 when the disc playing music box was introduced. Sensing that their boss was on to a good thing-and figuring they could make a better music box - two Symphonion employees, Gustave Brachhausen and Paul Reissner, left the company in 1889 to set up their own firm, Polyphon, in nearby Leipzig.

It wasn't long before they were outselling their former employer. A very steep increase in tariffs on goods imported to the United States, enacted in 1890, made it more cost-effective for Polyphon to set up shop here rather than export its music boxes from Germany. In 1894, Brachhausen officially inaugurated The Regina Music Box Company which would soon become an entity independent of Polyphone.


By the time The Regina Music Box Co. was founded, the music box industry had already made great strides evolving from music boxes that contained a single cylinder dotted with metal pins to those with interchangeable cylinders and, eventually to those that played interchangeable discs, making it possible to tailor the music to suit any occasion. 

The Regina Music Box Company basically followed the industry standard yet they tweaked and executed their business plan better and more effectively than their competitors. Among the Regina music boxes more significant improvements were the introduction of stronger spring-wound motors that could play for a longer time before they required rewinding and the placement of the machine's sounding board on the top to increase volume called a short bedplate.  

                                  

More than 100 years ago the Regina Music Box Company was regarded as America’s finest music box maker. In later generations, Regina became better known for manufacturing vacuum cleaners but the company's original goal was to fill daily life with music - and for a time it was very successful in doing so.

At the turn of the last century, the Regina Music Box Company sales grossed about $2 million a year at a time when a loaf of bread was 1 cent and a bank teller made about 7 dollars a week. In 1900 the least expensive 8 inch disc-sized Regina music box was $12 - about $300 in present-day figures. Nevertheless plenty of households owned a Regina music box.

   

The Regina Music Box Company produced more than 100,000 music boxes between 1892 and 1920. Only a relatively small number of Regina music boxes have survived 2 world wars scrap metal drives and other forms of elimination, thus making them a rare commodity in today’s world.

Pictured above is a very rare Rookwood cabinet fitted with a dics music box by Regina. For more info. and photos please visit  Solvang Antiques

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