From the Past

Regina Automatic Music Box

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A comparison of sophisticated technology of its day.  A Regina, powered by a hand-cranked spring and an electrified Apple MacBook Pro® with Blue Snowball® USB microphone.


The music on this tune sheet is I Dreamt that I Dwelt in Marble Halls from The Bohemian Girl opera, produced by Michael W. Balfe in 1843, London.  The song remained popular for decades.

Beginning in the late 1800s, the Regina automatic music boxes enabled consumers to enjoy popular music at home without the need for live performances.

Older parlor music boxes had played round metal cylinders with a predetermined series of musical selections on them.   These limited by cost, along with size and weight for portability.

Manufactured by the Regina Company of Rahway, New Jersey, the new product was  advertised as “the queen of automatic musical instruments.”  It came in a wooden case and played interchangeable steel disks called ‘tune sheets’.

The public was now able to obtain popular music more quickly through the purchase of individual tune sheets.  Availability through mail-order catalogs also increased the Regina’s popularity.

To play a disk, the clock gear-like mechanism was first wound with a crank.  Music was created as the tune sheet revolved and the projections under it plucked the combed  teeth inside the box.

In 1897, a compact automatic Regina ranged in price from $14.94 to $29.75, depending on the size.  Tune sheets also came in sizes to fit different models.  Individual disks were 30 cents apiece, for the smaller Regina, and 55 cents, for the larger size.  Over 300 musical selections were available in this format.

The production of the gramophone, with its newer  technology and records, eventually replaced the automatic music box.


With thanks to the A. L. Small House, Kankakee County Museum.

Made on a Mac