A history 120 years in the making.
by Lucas Travers.
There was a moment in time when the Harmony Musical Instrument Company was the largest musical instrument company in the U.S.
The Chicago Based company was founded in 1892 by Wilhelm Schultz with 4 employees. Within in 2 years the number of employees had expanded to over 40 employees and the mass production of Small Acoustic Guitars, Banjo’s, Violins and Mandolins started.
A time of rapid growth
At that time Chicago was the hotbed of Industrial manufacturing due to its location. Chicago’s location was favoured due to its Railroad lines and also being close to the Mississippi River, this allowed Harmony to get their instruments distributed across the country.
By 1915 Harmony was the largest manufacturer of Ukulele’s and in 1916 the company was purchased by SEARS in an attempt to corner the Ukulele market in the U.S. By 1930 Harmony was producing over 500,000 instruments a year, mainly Guitars, Banjos and Mandolins.
In 1940, after Kraus had a conflict with management (SEARS), he left the company, but then bought enough stock to restart the company independently. So thus, a new era in Harmony Guitars began. In the next 35 years 1940 to 1975 Harmony sold over 10 million guitars.
A lot of the electric Guitars made in the 50s and 60s came with DeArmond pickups. Some of the early Harmony Models had up to three DeArmond pickups each with individual volume and tone controls. For the money these were quite nice instrument and have their own unique sound due to the way they were built and the pickups they used. A lot of the models at the time used the Gold Foil Pickups that have become synonymous with the Harmony models of today.
Interesting fact is that when Fender was trying to break into the acoustic guitar market, the first guitar line they offered in their catalogue was actually made by Harmony with the Fender brand on the head stock.
In 1975 the Harmony Guitar Company ceased its operations and the sold the Name.
Harmony Guitars Today
Moving forward to 2018 the Harmony Brand was re-launched by Singapore based company Band-Lab Technologies. So, while the Chicago factory is a distant memory, you can still find Harmony Guitars being produced in America at Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their products have never been better, and it is no surprise that we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in what was once one of the most sold guitars in America