In the 20th century, people in the United States of America were intrigued by buying everything from catalogs. Musicians and guitar fans a main source of buying the instrument was from catalogs and seeing adverts in magazines. Chicago then was an attraction point for manufacturers due to the perfect city’s spot. It had connections with Mississippi River, railways and road that made a bang in everyone’s business and commercial industries. The famous retailers such as “Montgomery”, “Spiegel” and others became well-known for distributing guitars and other musical equipment because of start in Chicago. Let’s take a deeper look into famous brands that helped to create a pattern for guitars in Chicago.
The brand that is at the top of musical instruments is “Silvertone” was introduced by Sears in the early 20th century, however, they did not build and manufactured the guitars themselves. We could say that “Silvertone” was a distributor with its ideas to get other brands guitars and only decorate them. For example, “Harmony Guitars”, “Kay Musical Instruments” and “Valco” assembled the guitars but “Silvertone” made them into better versions of them. Also, their main goal was to distribute musical instruments through catalogs no matter the race or financial status – everyone who was able to afford it could have bought a guitar for themselves. At that time, the internet did not exist, there were not many choices of products and especially you get what is available in town.
“Harmony” was registered as a brand in the late 19th century and later on, in 1916, bought by Sears, Roebuck & Co. The sales of instruments were stacking up by moments. In 1923 they have sold about 250,000 products and in seven years the number has increased twice! It was a sign that the brand is growing, additionally, the significant change happened in 1974, when the sales reached a record of over two million.
At that time, they made almost half of the guitars in the whole USA. It has been the biggest and most fortunate musical instruments brand there was. Also, they constructed ukuleles and mandolins under the “Harmony” brand. Famous brands “Vogue”, “Valencia” and “Monterey” at some point have been receiving private labeled instruments made just exactly for them due to the multiple offerings submitted for “Harmony”.
“Kay” roots start in early years when the pioneer brand was changing names and eventually Henry Kuhrmeyer bought the company and the name stuck to this day. The brand’s guitars appear to be more expensive and better in quality comparing to “Harmony” ones. To make it more outstanding, they have started to feature offbeat pickup covers that are occasionally called and referenced to as ‘kessel boxes’.
In 1964, due to the numbers of interest rising, “Kay” built a new larger factory. They were producing guitars in fantastic numbers and no one could have competed with them at that time. They were making over millenary guitars per day, distributing them to forty-five companies and seven thousand retailers around the country. Currently, they tend to sell electric, bass and acoustic guitars.