Can you image a day where there was no music available at touch of a finger or simply calling out to Alexa to play your favorite song?
Well, back in 1893 Mr. Edward Hegeler and Dr. Paul Carus attended the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago that was part of the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the 1893 Chicago World Fair. When they returned home, they had brought many goodies for the family to enjoy. One of the items was a Regina Music Box. This brought a little entertainment to their home.
This was an extremely popular item from 1892 to 1920. About 100,000 were made, with the cost ranging from $12 to $300. Just to give you a little life comparison, in 1900 the average weekly pay was about $12, and the more expansive music box model was the amount of an entrance fee for a nursing home. For the time period this was a lavish purchase.
Most people think of a music box where a little ballerina dances on top. This music box was much different. It had the ability to play interchangeable punched metal discs kind of like a record. It is powered by a hand crank; the disc is placed on an axis and the arm lowered. There are larger holes on the edge of the disc that allow it to rotate with the teeth of a gear. The smaller holes on the disc connect with a comb on the bottom of the box, which then plucks the tune. These music boxes were of high quality and the tune of the musical comb was tuned to a specific pitch. The Regina company oﬀered a wide variety of musical discs for enjoyment.
Sadly, there are not many of these boxes available. Because metal was in such high demand during the World Wars, and Americans giving up their discs for the cause, most people ended up discarding the box because they no longer had the discs to play.
The Regina Musical Box at the Hegeler Carus Mansion is in pristine condition. If you are ever in the neighborhood, please pre-register online for a tour of the Mansion to see this beautiful piece.