HARMONY
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HARMONY
Instruments currently produced in China and Korea since 2007. Previously produced in the Chicago, IL area between the 1890s and 1975, and in various Asian countries including Korea from the mid-1970s through the early 2000s. Distributed by The Original Harmony Guitar Company, Inc. in Palatine, IL. See Chapter on House Brands.
The Harmony Company of Chicago, IL was one of the largest American musical instrument manufacturers. Harmony has the historical distinction of being the largest "jobber" house in the nation, producing stringed instruments for a number of different wholesalers. Individual dealers or distributors could get stringed instruments with their own brand name on it (as long as they ordered a minimum of 100 pieces). At one time the amount of instruments being produced by Harmony made up the largest percentage of stringed instruments being manufactured in the U.S. market (archtops, flattops, electric Spanish, Hawaiian bodies, ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, violins, and more).
Harmony was founded by Wilhelm J.F. Schultz in 1892. Schultz, a German immigrant and former foreman of Lyon & Healy's drum division, started his new company with four employees. By 1884, the number of employees had grown to forty, and Shultz continued to expand into larger and larger factories through 1904. Shultz built Harmony up to a 125 employee workforce (and a quarter of a million dollars in annual sales) by 1915.
In 1916, the Sears, Roebuck Company purchased Harmony, and seven years later the company had annual sales of 250,000 units. Max Adler, a Sears executive, appointed Jay Kraus as vice-president of Harmony in 1925. The following year Kraus succeeded founder Wilhelm Schultz as president, and continued expanding production. In 1930, annual sales were reported to be 500,000 units, with 35 to 40 percent being sold to Sears (catalog sales). Harmony had no branch offices, territorial restrictions, or dealer reps - wholesalers purchased the musical instruments and aggressively sold to music stores.
Harmony bought several trademarks from the bankrupt Oscar Schmidt Company in 1939, and their Sovereign and Stella lines were Harmony's more popular guitars. In 1940, Krause bought Harmony by acquiring the controlling stock, and continued to expand the company's production to meet the market boom during the 1950s and 1960s. Mr. Kraus remained president until 1968, when he died of a heart attack. Charles Rubovits (who had been with Harmony since 1935) took over as president, and remained in that position for two years. Kraus' trust still maintained control over Harmony, and trust members attempted to form a conglomerate by purchasing Chicago-based distributor Targ & Dinner and a few other companies. Company (or more properly the conglomerate's) indebtedness and the cheap mid-grade guitars that were being imported from Asia, led to a liquidation auction to satisfy creditors - although Harmony continued to turn in impressive annual sales figures right up until the company was dissolved in 1975.
In the late 1970s, the Harmony trademark was sold and licensed for use on a line of Asian-built guitars. From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Harmony was mainly used on cheap entry-level guitars that were often sold through mass merchandisers. The trademark and licensing agreements were also bought and sold several times throughout this period. In 2000, MBT International began to distribute Harmony guitars with a line of acoustic and electric instruments mainly based on popular American designs; however, by 2001, this licensing agreement was dissolved.
Current Harmony president Charlie Subecz bought the Harmony trademark in the mid-1990s, and by the mid-2000s, he decided to reintroduce the Harmony guitar line. Instead of using Harmony as simply a budget brand of copied models, Subecz went to work on offering vintage Harmony guitars that were reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, no blueprints or records existed on Harmony's vintage guitars, so Subecz and his crew had to obtain physical examples of these guitars. Examples were then sent to Korea where they were precisely duplicated and readied for production.
Harmony currently offers a line of vintage reproduction guitars as well as a custom line of guitars that feature newer designs and technology. For more information, visit Harmony's website or contact them directly.
Harmony company history courtesy Tom Wheeler, American Guitars, Harmony model information courtesy John Kinnemeyer of JK Lutherie, Ryland Fitchett of Rockohaulix, Ronald Rothman of Rothman's Guitars.

From Blue Book Publications:


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