Regal Harp Guitars
by Gregg Miner
I think I've already said about all I know about this subject in my blog of January 26, 2011, but I thought it would be good to also archive in one place all the specimens - surviving or historical - that come to light. Besides the inherent historical and entertainment value, perhaps these images will help the ongoing discussion on which - if any - of the early 1900's Regal harp guitars may have been built by the Larson brothers. My understanding is that this has been - and continues to be - a volatile topic.
A quick note about the design of the original Regal harp guitar. With those ridiculously short sub-bass strings - meant to be tuned to standard harp guitar pitch (descending from D below the neck's E string, diatonically to F) - attached to the decorative slab of wood inserted into the crook of the upper bass bout, this is an immediately recognizable harp guitar. And there's nothing else like it, right? Well, that's what we've all long thought. Then a couple of years ago, an image or two (and finally, three) have cropped up that show a Harwood harp guitar with a very similar design, introduced before 1895. This was almost certainly the inspiration (source) of the curious Regal. More importantly, I believe that Harwood was America's very first production harp guitar.
|From the May/June, 1899 issue of Cadenza. This is the most recent image I have discovered, and perhaps the most important, as it establishes the earliest date (so far) for the Regal harp guitar. The accompanying text does not mention a harp guitar, only that the trio had been performing together for "a little less than a year." Of course, the Regal could have been a "new purchase" just before this photo was taken. (Image courtesy of Lynn Wheelwright)||My notes say that this ad was
from McClures magazine sometime in 1900 (it would have to be post April,
as we can see from the new company name).
It features the same trio at left, with a different mandolin player (the harp guitarist looks the same).
April, 2016: I received these two pages from a dated 1899
catalog from Wulschner & Son. The first page states that they
are making the "Contra Bass" a regular offering, so this is
undoubtedly the first introduction of it. However, they mention
making special custom instruments previously (perhaps one of these was
for the group pictured - the Tuxedo Trio, who provide a
testimonial). Whether this moves the design back into 1898 or even
further is of course hard to say.
|This ad is from Wulschner & Son, and is dated c.1900 by Michael Holmes. He is correct in that it would have to be pre-Aprill,1900, when they became incorporated as the "Wulschner Music Company."||This ad appeared in the September, 1900 issue of "Munsey's Magazine." The photo is of the Deseret Mandolin Club, Salt Lake City, Utah.||In the same year (1900), this piece of music by C.E. Pomeroy (center) was published by F.O. Gutman.||This image provides much better detail, not only of the Regal harp guitar, but of the alleged Regal mandolins.|
|Here's a great c.1900s postcard (unfortunately heavily hand-tinted and inked) that shows the above Regal harp guitar, along with a half-size guitar, and a huge guitar! The latter seems to have 8 tuners. Could it be a double-course mandobass?!||
Roy H. Butin, in stage costume with his Regal, believed to
|From the September, 1909 Cadenza magazine.|
Apollo Concert Company, which played the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits in
the 1910's included a fellow on trombone, saxophone and
Regal harp guitar.
(images courtesy of the Special Collections Department, University of Iowa Libraries)
different ensembles with the unusual model.
|1912 Sheet Music featuring the Regal shown under "Specimens" above||1913 Sheet Music featuring the same Regal shown at left|
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