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Images from the Lillibridge Gallery

The Harmony Company

Harmony Company exhibit

The Harmony Company exhibit in the Lillibridge Gallery includes:

NMM 4352.  Guitar by Harmony Company, Chicago, ca. 1960-1965.  Monterey Leader, 469H950, with original case. Pressed arched top, red sunburst finish, adjustable bridge, pickguard removed.  One of the better inexpensive arch-top guitars.  Arne B. & Jeanne F. Larson Estate, 1988.

M-90.  Guitar side bender used at the Harmony Guitar Company in Chicago.  Gift of Raoul Mitts, East Lansing, Michigan, 1992.

M-91.  Mandolin side bender used at the Harmony Guitar Company.  Gift of Mark Zimmerman, Plymouth, Michigan, 1992.

M-64.  Guitar side bender used at the Harmony Guitar Company. The curved piping with small holes was used to provide moisture, when bending the wood.  Guild of American Luthiers auction.  Board of Trustees, 1992.

The exhibit also includes an original workbench, mandolin neck template, rosette pieces, pickguards, guitar neck blanks, spruce planks, rosewood veneer, rosewood fingerboard blanks, spruce guitar tops, rubber stamps, clamping caul, clamps, and tailpieces, rescued, when the factory closed, and donated to the National Music Museum by Dennis Lake, Birmingham, Michigan; Bart Reiter, Haslett, Michigan; Stan Werbin, East Lansing, Michigan; Raoul Mitts, East Lansing, Michigan; Mark Zimmerman, Plymouth, Michigan; and, Jack Werner, Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1992.

A Brief History of the Harmony Company

The Harmony Company was founded in 1892 by Wilhelm Schultz. In 1916, it was bought by Sears, Roebuck and Co., which wanted to corner the ukulele market, and went on to become the largest producer of stringed instruments in the country, selling some 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including all kinds of guitars, banjos, and mandolins. In the late 1930s, the firm was making violins again, bought brand names from the bankrupt Oscar Schmidt Co.—La Scala, Stella, and Sovereign—and was marketing not only Harmony products, but also using the Sears name, Silvertone, plus a variety of trade names, such as Vogue, Valencia, Johnny Marvin, Monterey, and others. The company hit a peak in 1964-1965, selling 350,000 instruments, but low-end foreign competition led to the company’s demise 10 years later. Between 1945 and 1975, the Chicago firm had mass produced about ten million guitars, but finally was no longer competitive.

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