The Regina Company was established by the German music box company Polyphon when they decided it made financial sense to stop exporting their devices into the United States due to high tariffs. They opened a factory in the United States with their headquarters in Rahway, New Jersey. That was in 1894. Regina improved the technology and did extremely well in the states for a time, giving the owners enough confidence to break away from their German parent company. They introduced stronger spring-wound motors to their machines that could play for longer periods of time before they required re-winding, and their placement of the machine’s sounding board improved the quality of the sound.
By 1900, Regina earned for themselves a reputation as the finest American producer of music boxes, with the goal to 'fill daily life with music.' Their gross annual profit that year was about two million dollars, at a time when a loaf of bread cost one cent, and a bank teller made around seven dollars a week.
The least-expensive Regina music box at this time used an eight-inch disc. It cost twelve dollars, the equivalent of close to three hundred dollars today. Most homes had one.
Between 1892 and 1900, Regina produced over one hundred thousand music boxes. A relatively small amount of them have survived through the years - their scarcity in part due to families sacrificing them for scrap metal drives during both world wars.
- Regina's first president, the German-born Gustave Brachhausen, owned his own 24karat gold-leaf music box.
- Regina produced discs from as small as 8" to as large as 27". The 27" boxes had two combs that included 172 notes tuned in chromatic scales and embracing over seven octaves.
- In 1896, Brachhausen patented a self-changing machine that held up to twelve discs and would automatically move between discs for public play. This machine cost four hundred pounds. To hear a song, the listener had to place a penny in the slot (be careful - if modern fans of music boxes find one of these machines and wants to play it, they can only insert pennies dated before 1982 - that was the year zinc was added to pennies. Zinc is lighter than the original copper, and generally does not trigger the play mechanism!)
The Regina Music Box/Phonograph (Reginaphone) combination was advertised in a December 1907 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. The machines were apparently not big sellers and are fairly difficult to find today. The Regina Company filed a U.S. trademark application on May 14, 1906 (trademark number 19,520), claiming used of the Regina name on "phonograph-music box combinations." The phonographs in these machines were supplied by the American Graphophone Company (now known as Columbia). About a decade later, Columbia offered a similar machine, but with an internal horn, under their Grafonola trademark. Columbia also produced the Regina Record as a client label, around 1912-1914, but curiously, the client was L.L. Goodman (a Philadelphia retailer) and the records had no connection to the Regina music box operation, as far as anyone can determine.