American guitar manufacture was at its peak in the 1960s, with numerous highly-respected guitar companies making instruments at all levels; from the likes of Kay, Gretsch, Epiphone, Guild, Fender and Gibson. But Harmony was one of the very biggest producers, at one point the biggest, selling guitars branded both as Harmony, and rebadged for numerous other distributors. In fact, in the mid/late 1960s, Harmony was said to produce more guitars than all other American guitar manufacturers combined. Most were entry or intermediate level instruments though, and although examples of most models are easy to find, examples in really good condition are rare.
1966 Harmony advertisement featuring the H76 thinline semi acoustic, the H19 solid body electric and the 1260 flat-top acoustic
But Harmony produced a lot of instruments other than guitars: ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, violins etc; the company was proud of it's history, proudly American, and as proud of its skilled workforce, as it's use of modern technology "We've produced millions of instruments but we make them one at a time". This long history of instrument manufacture explains why Harmony had the expertise to produce so many well-built acoustic and hollow-body electric instruments; guitars like the Meteor and Rocket were very well received. They were slow, however, in committing to the solid body market; although they released the H44 Stratotone neck-through solid body in 1952, it was gone by 1957, and there were only hollow bodies until the release of the Silhouette in 1963.
So you can be sure that, while every Harmony instrument has the same basic characteristics for which all Harmony products are noted, each individual instrument has had dozens of manhours devoted just to it alone
- By skilled craftsmen fully trained in innumerable precision hand operations - and the use of most modern equipment- for that closeness-to-perfection which is our constant goal
- By experienced finishers, who give thoroughgoing individual care to each instrument as it passes through their hands
- By inspectors who know that Harmony's heritage of fine instrument making depends onhow carefully they check each detail of adjustment and playability before the name Harmony may be affixed to the instrument
Harmony Chicago guitar plants 1 and 2, opened in 1940 and 1962 respectively
Harmony had been producing instruments in America since 1892, and used a number of different premises in Chicago, however from 1940 instrument production was performed at the Racine Avenue factory (plant 1, top right). From 1962, some processes - final assembly, inspection, and shipping - was moved to plant 2, about a mile away (bottom right).
Harmony, like many other early guitar manufacturers, used some very fine tonewoods in the production of instruments: spruce tops, maple, African mahogany and birch backs and sides, South American mahogany, maple and poplar necks and rosewood fingerboards and bridges.
Several notable ranges of similar guitars were produced with different finishes and features; whilst some companies lumped all variants together with a single model name - i.e. a Fender Stratocaster is a Fender Stratocaster, irrespective of it's finish, in many cases Harmony split it's models, giving a different model designation depending on finish, inclusion of a tremolo etc.
Harmony's market share of entry and intermediate-level instruments was it's downfall in the mid-1970s, as it found itself unable to compete with the competition from overseas (particularly Japanese) manufacturers. The higher-end American companies like Guild, Gibson and Fender struggled to some extent too, but the imports were generally aimed at student guitarists rather than professionals.
Follow the links listed below for more information on each model.
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