The History of the Famous Regal Guitar
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Many bluesmen started out on Regal resonator guitars, now you can get a great quality Regal again for amazingly low prices.
Instruments currently produced in Korea. Distributed by Saga Musical Instruments of San Francisco, California. Original Regal instruments produced beginning 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Regal reappeared in Chicago, Illinois in 1908, possibly tied to Lyon and Healy (WASHBURN). U.S. production was centered in Chicago from 1908 through the late 1960s. Models from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s produced in Chicago, Illinois by the Harmony company. Some Regal models licensed to Fender, and some appear with Fender logo during the late 1950s to mid 1960s (prior to Fender´s own flat-top and Coronado series).
Emil Wulschner was a retailer and wholesaler in Indianapolis, Indiana during the 1880s. In the early 1890s he added his stepson to the company, and changed the name to "Wulschner and Son". They opened a factory around 1896 to build guitars and mandolins under three different trademarks: Regal, University, and 20th Century. Though Wulschner passed away in 1900, the factory continued on through 1902 or 1903 under control of a larger corporation. The business end of the company let it go when the economy faltered during those final years. This is the end of the original Regal trademarked instruments.
In 1904 Lyon & Healy (WASHBURN) purchased the rights to the Regal trademark, thousands of completed and works in progress instruments, and the company stockpile of raw materials. A new Regal company debuted in Chicago, Illinois in 1908 (it is not certain what happened during those four years) and it is supposed that they were tied to Lyon & Healy. The new company marketed ukuleles and tenor guitars, but not 6-string guitars.
However, experts have agreed that Regal built guitar models for other labels (Bruno, Weyman, Stahl, and Lyon & Healy) during the 1910-1920 era. Regal eventually announced that their six string models would be distributed through a number of wholesalers.
In 1930, the Tonk Bros. Company acquired the rights to the Washburn trademark when the then-current holder (J. R. Stewart Co.) went bankrupt. Regal bought the rights to the Stewart and LeDomino names from Tonk Bros., and was making fretted instruments for all three trademarks. Also in the early 1930s, Regal had licensed the use of Dobro resonators in a series of guitars. In 1934 they acquired the rights to manufacture Dobro brand instruments when National-Dobro moved to Chicago from California. Regal then announced that they would be joining the name brand guitar producers that sold direct to dealers in 1938. Regal was, in effect, another producer of "house brand" guitars prior to World War II.
It has been estimated by one source that Regal-built Dobros stopped in 1940, and were not built from then on. During World War II, guitar production lines were converted to the war effort. After the war, the Regal Musical Instrument company´s production was not as great as the pre- war production amounts. In 1954 the trademark and company fixtures were sold to Harmony. Harmony and Kay, were the other major producers of House Brand instruments. Regal guitars were licensed to Fender in the late 1950s, and some of the Harmony built "Regals" were rebranded with the Fender logo. This agreement continued up until the mid 1960s, when Fender introduced their own flat-top guitars.
In 1987, Saga Musical Instruments reintroduced the Regal trademark to the U.S. market. Regal now offers a traditional resonator guitar in both a roundneck and squareneck versions. Saga, located in San Francisco, also offers the Blueridge line of acoustic instruments, as well as mandolins, and stringed instrument parts and replacement pieces.(Early Regal history courtesy John Teagle, Washburn: Over One Hundred Years of Fine Stringed Instruments. This noteworthy book brilliantly unravels core histories of Washburn, Regal, and Lyon & Healy and is a recommended must read to guitar collectors.)
Other related links:
Great 'starter site' for resonators
More Regal history