The Harmony Company was an American company that, in its heyday, was the largest musical instrument manufacturer in the USA. They made many types of stringed instruments, including ukuleles, acoustic and electric guitars, and violins.
Harmony was founded in 1892 by Wilhelm Schultz. In 1916, Sears, Roebuck and Co. purchased it, in part to corner the ukulele market. At the time Harmony was led by Joe Kraus, who was chairman until 1940. In 1928, Harmony introduced the first of many Roy Smeck models, and went on to become the largest producer in the U.S. They sold 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including various models of guitars, banjos, and mandolins.
In the late 1930s, the firm began making violins again after a 19 year hiatus. They also bought brand names from the bankrupt Oscar Schmidt Co.—La Scala, Stella, and Sovereign. They sold not only Harmony products, but instruments under the Sears name, Silvertone, and a variety of trade names—Vogue, Valencia, Johnny Marvin, Monterey, Stella, and others.In 1940, after Kraus had a conflict with management, he left, but then bought enough stock to restart the company independently.
The company peaked 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 mass-produced about ten million guitars. The company reduced their output over the years, later focusing on student models sold through JCPenney.
The pickups on almost all electric guitars and basses that Harmony produced were manufactured by Rowe Industries Inc./H. N. Rowe & Company/Rowe DeArmond Inc./DeArmond In. in Toledo, Ohio.
The Harmony Guitar Company ceased in 1975, and sold the Harmony name. In the early 2000s, an unrelated company, the Westheimer Corp., based in Lake Barrington, Illinois briefly imported "reissue" Harmony guitars.