Harmony was founded in 1892 by Wilhelm Schultz. In 1916, Sears, Roebuck and Co. purchased it, in part to corner the ukulele market. 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 1930's, the firm began making violins again after a 19 year hiatus. They also bought brand names from the bankrupt Oscar Schmidt Co. like 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.
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 had mass produced about ten million guitars. The company reduced their output over the years, later focusing on student models sold through JCPenney.
The Harmony Guitar Company ceased in 1975, and sold the Harmony name. The name is now used by an unrelated company based in Lake Barrington, Illinois that imports guitars from Asia.
Vintage Harmony guitars have become a popular item for collectors and often fetch high prices on eBay.
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