Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > German harmonica makers
German harmonica makers
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110 posts
Jan 07, 2020
10:12 AM
Germany is the major player in the invention, development and manufacturing of harmonicas and Hohner and Seydel are major harmonica companies today. Are there other German harmonica makers in business today?
764 posts
Jan 08, 2020
3:48 AM
When I was a teenager I would sometimes buy a harmonica made by FR Holtz, which I think was a German made harp,cost less than a Hohner, but I don't know if they are still in operation.
Wisdom does not always come with old age. Sometimes old age arrives alone.
111 posts
Jan 08, 2020
7:44 AM
Thanks, Sarge. I see a lot of new harmonica companies in other parts of the world but I don't know if there are other German companies these days beyond Hohner and Seydel.

I ask for a class I teach.
3630 posts
Jan 08, 2020
9:04 AM
Most of the German and Austrian harp companies were bought out by Hohner prior to WWII. If anyone has seen harmonicas under the Weltmeister name, which is an accordion manufacturer, they were all made by Seydel.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
112 posts
Jan 08, 2020
11:40 AM
Thanks, Bob. I see that Weltmeister is in the same town as Seydel - Klingenthal. I don't see harmonicas on their website.
10216 posts
Jan 08, 2020
12:40 PM
Hohner bought up the ones that were in Western Germany. The ones in Eastern Germany were consolidated too, and then when the Iron Curtain fell Seydel rose out of that.

Seydel has a history page on their site.


Huang was started by Cham-Ber Huang in China, who was the top developer for Hohner prior to that. I think Hering has a similar history, and of course Hohner has done a lot of manufacturing in China and some of the factories seem to be launching their own lines now.

There is a company in the Czech Republic that does accordion reeds. There briefly were two companies in Brazil (Hering, which had some problems but is starting to do exports again, and Bends which went bankrupt.)

So the state of the industry is something like this-
-Hohner, Seydel (Germany)
-Suzuki, Tombo (Japan)
-Hering (Brazil)
-Kongsheng, Huang, Easttop (China... with a couple of them manufacturing cheaper brands as well)
-Bushman (stamped who knows where and put together in the U.S., at various times they had Suzuki and Seydel parts)
-DaBell (South Korea, although they have to be doing something with Kongsheng because their covers, stamping aside are identical)
-Yonberg (France, but using Seydel reeds, although they had an abortive attempt to make their own)

I've heard rumors of a Vietnamese company but don't know anything about them. Historically there have been Indian, Polish, Swedish?, Italian? and probably others. The last company to make them from the ground up in the U.S. was Harrison. Before there there was Kratt and Magnus (all plastic harmonicas!).

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First Post- May 8, 2009
6420 posts
Jan 08, 2020
2:16 PM
I have some Weltmeister chromatics. Probably from the 90s. I expect they were cheap. They look cheap on the inside.

But they are Seydel anyway.

I don’t know any other German manufacturers outside Hohner and Seydel. Some of the companies bought by Hohner did continue to produce goods using the original trade name. The one which springs to mind is Koch, but there were others. I think Fr. Hotz was also in this boat.
There’s another I’ve seen too. Pohl I think was part of the name. I’ve seen these with different locations and the Hohner name mentioned on some and not others.

I expect Hohner would have gobbled up Seydel too if the Russians hadn’t separated their part of Germany from the British, French, American parts.
3631 posts
Jan 09, 2020
10:28 AM
I believe that Bushmans are now being made by Kongsheng and they've redone their Delta Frost line and they now also sell Kingsheng products.

There was another German or Austrian company that once made harmonicas called Hugo Rauner.

Some Hohner products were being made in factories in the Czech Republic as well as in Ireland.
Barbeque Bob Maglinte
Boston, MA
CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
585 posts
Jan 09, 2020
12:36 PM
A friend just popped in today and gave me a pair of old harmonicas. One is a Hohner Sportsman which I think is a tremelo and the other is a 10 hole chromatic by C.H. Meinel-Schlossmeinel.

Anyone heard of those?

"The Possum Whisperer"

Last Edited by shanester on Jan 09, 2020 4:59 PM
1661 posts
Jan 09, 2020
2:57 PM
Hotz was one of the German companies bought up by Hohner and used as a nameplate for their lower priced (and lower quality) lines for awhile; same goes for Weiss.

For those interested, the book Harmonica Makers of Germany and Austria, by Martin Haeffner (curator of the Deutsches Harmonikamuseum) and Lars Lindenmueller, goes into a lot of of detail on the history of harmonica manufacturing in those nations.


Rauner became part of a short-lived consortium that included Seydel and Boehm that tried to stand up to the dominance of Hohner in the 1920s.
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Last Edited by WinslowYerxa on Jan 09, 2020 2:58 PM
6424 posts
Jan 09, 2020
3:19 PM
Thank you for that link, Winslow. I’m trying to obtain an English language print of that book and it appears to be available. Now trying to sort out whether they’ll ship to me. Australia was left off the list but it may be unintentional.

EDIT: Have sorted out the book order. I’m very pleased as I was looking for this recently but had been unable to find an English language print.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Jan 11, 2020 2:09 PM
10217 posts
Jan 09, 2020
5:32 PM
Forgot Swan out of China.

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First Post- May 8, 2009
113 posts
Jan 09, 2020
8:53 PM
The Seydel website says that more than 100 harmonica manufacturers grew in the Klingenthal, Germany area. I presume that is over many years. That is an amazing number in such a small area.
Blind Melon
114 posts
Jan 10, 2020
10:32 AM
I have a question.

If Seydel has been around since the early 1800's, as long or longer than Hohner, then why is it every noted Blues harmonica player from the beginning up through the 70's or 80's all played a Hohner?

I am referring to the A-List harp players (Little Walter, Big Walter, both Sonny Boys, etc.).

I am not talking about the likes of Charlie Musselwhite and James Cotton, who later on in their careers started playing Seydels, which may or may not had to do with getting all the free harps they want.

It seems like you would have seen the old-school players with something other than Hohners.

FWIW, I only play Hohner harps, mostly SP20.

Last Edited by Blind Melon on Jan 10, 2020 10:40 AM
3510 posts
Jan 10, 2020
11:08 AM
think it was probably availability of hohners and seydels not being sold in stores......those greats from the past played marine bands and rice miller played old standby....
440 posts
Jan 10, 2020
11:22 AM
Did Seydel export to the USA before World War II ? I see lots of pre-war Hohners but pre-war Seydels must be rare in this country.

Last Edited by DanP on Jan 10, 2020 11:23 AM
6425 posts
Jan 10, 2020
11:34 AM
Pre war, Seydel were exporting to Australia but I think Hohner got into the US market early ish and had it tied up.
Post war, Seydel was behind the iron curtain and nothing was coming out of there. I don’t know about the rest of the world but we didn’t see exports from east Germany until the very early 80s.
I’m afraid I still associate Seydel with those products I saw in the early 80s. It’s very strange but I catch myself doing it whenever I’m working on a Seydel product. I can encounter a poorly finished Hohner product and I just get on with fixing it but every time I encounter a Seydel reed with a burr, or a slot which isn’t cleanly cut, a reedplate with a razor sharp burr, a reed with a twist or a dip which can’t be straightened, or a malformed screw, my mind heads down a ranting path of complaining about East German junk. I have to stop and bring it back but it takes a conscious effort.
I was a teenager when we started seeing this stuff from east Germany and I don’t even remember specifics apart from one MZ motorcycle, but I obviously formed a strong impression.
I don’t even know if this is true but an Alfa Romeo owner told me his 80s Alfa was made of Eastern European steel which is why it was so rust-prone. When he told me, I just happily absorbed the story as obviously true. I’m so prejudiced against them in this way and I’m only seeing it clearly right now.
441 posts
Jan 10, 2020
2:25 PM
Thanks, SuperBee. Speaking of the Iron Curtain, one of the few products from a communist country we saw here in America during the Cold War days was the Yugo car from Yugoslavia. It was junk and still the butt of jokes here.
442 posts
Jan 10, 2020
9:13 PM
SuperBee, I've read that the Great Depression effected Seydel badly and the company was kept afloat partially during that period by selling boomerang harmonicas to Australia. Do you or anybody here know if that is a prewar Seydel boomerang harmonica on the cover of Charlie Musselwhite's album Ace of Harps?
6427 posts
Jan 10, 2020
10:56 PM
I'm not sure if that one is a genuine prewar or not. They did release a replica at some time in fairly recent past.
Just did some checking and i now believe that Charlie's is likely a genuine vintage model. The reissue was 21st century and Ace Of Harps was released in 1990.

Yes, Albert's Music used to sell Seydel in Australia under their own trading names. There were a few models, including the Boomerang.

the harmonica was one of the popular instruments for schools at the time. My mother was in a harmonica band at school in the 30s. My dad was a few years older and he was allocated a fife when he started school in the 20s. We do see a few Seydel items turn up on ebay, but very few hohner diatonics of that era. plenty of Hohner chromatics though
10218 posts
Jan 10, 2020
11:17 PM
I was reading on Vermona today. They were another one of the companies that got sucked up into the East Germany conglomerate.

"Goldon (Toy piano)
Weltmeister (accordions, electronic organs and electric pianos)
Regent (amplifiers and speakers)
Vermona (electronic organs and pianos)
Bandmaster (triolas, harmonicas and melodicas)"

F.A. Rauner was part of it too.


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First Post- May 8, 2009
6428 posts
Jan 11, 2020
1:38 AM
i think these things i have are Vermona Weltmeister Chromatic Harmonicas.


i have so many of them i must be able to make 1 playable unit. They are held together with (i believe they're called) drift pins. thats probably why i haven't fully investigated the possibility. need to investigate the process of getting those apart without causing damage.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Jan 11, 2020 2:02 AM
Thievin' Heathen
1190 posts
Jan 14, 2020
6:16 AM
For some reason I want to say that Bandmasters were East Side Seydels. Anyway, the one in my collection looks like it was made with washing machine parts.
114 posts
Jan 24, 2020
1:41 PM
If you're interested in the history of the harmonica, search for "Marketing Diversity: The making of a global consumer product - Hohner's harmonicas, 1857-1930" by Hartmut Berghoff. It is mostly about Hohner. It talks a lot about the business side of the harmonica.

If anyone knows more history of other companies, please let us know. As said above, we know some Seydel history but it would be great to learn more about some of the other early companies.
6443 posts
Jan 24, 2020
8:42 PM
I enjoyed that article. As you said, mostly about Hohner but it really explains Hohner’s dominance and why they were in a position to buy out their main competitors by 1928, just in time for the Great Depression, followed closely by the WW2 and after that the world was different but they were already the dominant name in harmonica manufacture so that’s where they remained for a long time.
I liked the WW1 story about sending parts to Switzerland and continuing to sell harps to the rest of the world as Swiss-manufactured goods.

While I was reading that, I was struck by the similarities between modern mass-market mail order operations and the description of Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward
937 posts
Jan 26, 2020
5:17 PM
Don’t forget Golden Bird out of China. This is the factory that used to make the Huang’s in the 80s.
10223 posts
Jan 26, 2020
10:35 PM
I'm working on a map. I've got a Polish harmonica called Harcerz, but that's the model name. It has a logo I've seen on a couple harps but I don't have a name for it.


Harcerz means 'Scout' in Polish, so it's there scout model. It's a edit-Octave harp, not chord harp. Not sure how old they are but someone was selling them as rare but as soon as I bought one he had another up. Look to be NOS.

I've got an Irish made Hohner Lancer.

Need to add flags for several brands listed in this thread still. Blue are in business, red are out of business... not sure why Kratt is yellow... thought I was using yellow for companies that still exist but that have nothing to do with harmonica anymore.

Accuracy of locations varies tremendously. Polish brand might be Melodia. I see some Made in Poland labeled Melodia as if that was the brand.

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First Post- May 8, 2009

Last Edited by nacoran on Jan 28, 2020 8:51 AM
6446 posts
Jan 27, 2020
3:43 AM
Nate, I know there were 1 or 2 Italian manufacturers. I think that (Archimede?) Mancini was based in Pesaro.


Also, here is that Czech reed manufacturer;

115 posts
Jan 31, 2020
12:36 PM
I've come across several other names that have been said to be harmonica companies in the 1800s: Brunnbauer

Any insights on any of them, including country?
116 posts
Feb 03, 2020
10:27 AM
If you want to learn more about the harmonica in Australia, read "A Band in a Waistcoat Pocket," by Ray Grieves. It covers a lot about the German makers and their relationship with Australian companies. It came out in 1995 so recent years are not covered.

Last Edited by Tom585 on Feb 03, 2020 10:27 AM
6470 posts
Feb 05, 2020
12:09 AM
Tom585, in reference to the OP, I’m not sure if it was answered definitively, but I’m just sitting down with my newly received copy of “harmonica makers of Germany and Austria”, and read this sentence: “There, in Klingenthal, is today the only German harmonica factory in existence, other than Matth. Hohner: the post GDR era re-privatized company, C.A. Seydel Söhne.“
117 posts
Feb 05, 2020
8:43 PM
Thank you, Super Bee. That definitively answers my original question!

I've been looking for the book "Harmonica Makers of Germany and Austria" with no luck. Can you tell me how you got the book, Super Bee? I fell like it will have lots of the information I'm looking for.
6471 posts
Feb 05, 2020
10:21 PM
Tom, I bought it here:


It’s the English language version.

I’m sure it will give you much of the information you’re interested to know.

I’ve learned quite a lot through following this thread, so kudos to you for initiating it. It’s lead me to read that article you suggested above, and follow Winslow’s suggestion to obtain this book.

I see now the history of harmonica in quite a different way than before. Very good. The 2 big European wars really had a big impact.

Another publication which may interest you is John Cook’s little biography of Julius Berthold, who invented the machine to mass produce reeds and thus revolutionised the industry, enabling production of harmonicas to hum from a few thousand per year to hundreds of thousands per year within a very short time, and ultimately to 50 million or so in the peak years of the 1920s.

You can get John’s book through following this URL:

10227 posts
Feb 06, 2020
3:31 PM
Yamaha, I'm pretty sure, is the same Yamaha that still makes lots of other instruments. I'm not sure if they outsourced them like Fender did recently or if it was something they made in house though.

According to one of the captions in this article on Hohner G.A. Doerfel was a Klingenthal manufacturer.


Ludwig seems to have been German... with a name like that who would have guessed!


Here is a Ludwig Piccolo from the 40s-50s.

F.A. Bohm was German. So was Rauner. Not sure if either were one of the ones Hohner bought up.

Ernst Leiterd had a German patent for bells on a harmonica... C.E. Brown's harmonica zither sounds more interesting though!


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First Post- May 8, 2009
6472 posts
Feb 06, 2020
7:26 PM
Neither Bohm nor Rauner were bought out by Hohner.
Both those operations were based in the Klingenthal area, and banded together with Seydel and a couple of smaller businesses in the 30s in a effort to survive Hohner's dominance.
hohners last major acquisitions were Koch and Weisse in '28 and '29 respectively. The group didn't last but they held out until the war, and after that, Klingenthal was on the Russian side of Germany.

In 1964 there were still 7 separate harmonica/accordion manufacturing business in the Klingenthal region but from '65 on the GDR started to amalgamate them into state-run enterprises. After the reunification of Germany, the sole remaining harmonica factory was returned to the descendants of the previous owners, which is why Seydel was restored as an independant operation. It was by that time a very small operation and again faced the problem of competing with Hohner in an open market. They may have been fortunate that Hohner was at that time rather vulnerable to competition and really needing to sink a lot of money into refurbishing their own operation.
118 posts
Feb 06, 2020
9:00 PM
I just read John Cook's book last week. I knew nothing of Julius Berthold. Now I know he had a large impact on the harmonica world. Before his machine, a team could make about 100 reeds a day. His machine could make 50,000 a day with one person running it. Production went up and prices went down at a time when interest in the harmonica was growing.
169 posts
Feb 08, 2020
9:23 AM
Harp manufacturing is no different than any other business when it comes to profiting from your product. The big fish gobble up the little fish to sustain their place in the market. Hohner is the Coca Cola of the harp world...if you get the widest distribution and create the greatest top-of-mind-awareness for your product, you will get the lion's share of the sales regardless of whether or not you have the best product. And then there is the issue of profit margins which can easily put you into the position of either selling out to the big guys or filing for bankruptcy. This also governs availability at the retail end. Hohner has the greatest recognition as a brand, so most all of your music stores will favor carrying Hohner. There is not a music store within 50 miles (or more) of me that carries Suzuki. When your product has a low profit margin to begin with and then MAP pricing being dictated by internet sites, there isn't a lot of reason to carry numerous brands when you are only making $5 or less per unit. 80/20 rule applies to music stores as well...they are obviously over-run with guitars and amps, so when you look at the harp display, you won't have any trouble locating a major C MB, but beyond that the offerings are pretty scanty. Thankfully we have guys like Ron who carry a full line at very fair pricing. And, of course, there is the problem of perception and pricing with the public who won't pay $60 for a good harp but want to cap it at ten bucks...and we all know what you get for that price. I once painted with another artist whose teacher taught him to "paint like you're a millionaire." The point was, if you focus only on the cost of materials, your work and the finished product will suffer greatly. The same goes for music. If you focus only on trying to get the rock-bottom price for a harp, don't ever expect to sound like the greats. And so we continue to purchase our MB's, Manji's, LO's, SP20's, Crossovers and whatever your personal preference is, make our adjustments and customize to our own liking. Fortunately we have all of these quality products today to choose from.
6477 posts
Feb 08, 2020
2:55 PM
There’s a lot can be said around this topic but it can get quite muddled if all the themes are mixed in together.
I’m working on separating the strands.
One way I’ve been thinking about the history of harmonica manufacturers is to break the history into phases.

I’m coming up with a timeline that has waypoints, something like this:

1820s- Harmonica invented.
1820s-1870s- various manufacturers start to produce harmonicas, mainly as a seasonal cottage industry. Production numbers from any manufacturer amount to a few thousand per year maximum. All production tasks are carried out by hand. Some international marketing approaches are explored. Migration from Europe to USA is a factor in the introduction of the product to America.
1880 is a watershed year as Julius Berthold’s reed mill (invented in late 1870s) makes mass production feasible.
1880-1914 those makers who invest in automation and shift to specialised factory based production, grow and many smaller home-based makers are absorbed or otherwise go out of business. Number of units per year leaps from thousands to millions. Opening up markets becomes crucial to success in a competitive industry.
Hohner explores various approaches to marketing and emerges as the most successful player in this environment.
By the start of WW1 Hohner have already taken over most of their smaller local competitors but continue to use those names to market some usually inferior quality product lines.
Koch have become the second largest (“but best equipped”) harmonica producer. It’s a long jump from Hohner to Koch and another big leap to 3rd place, which is probably Weiß, and after that is a gaggle of similar size operations.
The war was disruptive to business but also serves as a waypoint because of the technological changes which occurred as a result. Transport and communication was on a steep curve during the war years, and the post WW1 world was somewhat different to the conditions prewar.
The period 1919-1929 was the real peak boom time for harmonica.
In the peak years production exceeded 20 million units per annum. This is at least double anything achieved before the war.
Hohner were getting right on top of the marketing game, while Koch were failing to really take advantage of the conditions. Both were family run businesses, second generation, and Koch really fell victim to the hazards of infighting.
Hohner acquired Weiße in 1928, and by the end of that year the Koch brothers agreed to sell their business to Hohner. Officially Koch was sold on 1 January 1929, for just over $2 million DM (around $560000 USD).
Whether the Kochs saw the imminent financial crisis, or that the boom was over, or just saw their position as untenable for other reasons, I can’t tell. Maybe all those things.
This really meant Hohner had won the game. Pack up the monopoly set, Hohner is the winner. Yes, there were still the Klingenthal manufacturers but they were not in the same league.

The period from 1929 until 1939 is clearly a distinct period. The economic conditions and competition from radio and recorded music all contributed to a decline in harmonica production, and quite possibly Hohner’s position of unrivalled dominance may have settled things a bit.
The political situation in Germany was very different too, and the nazi’s ‘economic miracle’ made economic conditions in that country rather special. In the 1930s there are still plenty of harmonicas being made and played but the hype of the 20s is greatly diminished.
With harmonica production dominated by German firms, naturally ww2 had a huge impact on the industry.
I’m not really sure even when to call the end of the war for harmonica production. It took years before industry began to resemble anything like the pre war normality.
I’m inclined to write off the entire decade of the 40s and pick up again from 1950, but really I suppose the new era commenced “post war”.
Hohner made a big deal of their centenary year in 1957. After that I think they contracted somewhat.
Their competitors in Saxony (ie Klingenthal) were now effectively part of the USSR and not part of the same economic world.

It seems there was an initial postwar boom for Hohner. They had come through relatively intact. They were in the French-occupied area and evidently got along ok with the occupiers.
According to my book, Hohner were producing 20 million units per year again in the early 50s, with s workforce of around 4000.
After 1957 sales declined.

I lose track of the story around this point. I have to read more. I don’t really know about the Asian manufacturers, and I expect I’m doing them a disservice to categorise them as ‘Asian’ because I expect the story in Japan is quite distinct from the history in China and while I think of the Korean involvement as quite recent I really have no basis for that thought other than my ignorance.
I don’t know much history of Hohner’s use of non German factories. I believe they had facilities in Ireland and possibly England between the wars and maybe also post WW2.
I don’t know about the South American businesses, although I’m sure I have read some history on these. I believe Hohner owned a factory in Brazil but I’m not sure if they started it and later sold it or if they took it over and later sold it.

Anyway, this is really just an exercise for me in trying to put down what I think I’ve learned.

One thing which has occurred to me overnight is to wonder about the supply of harps to the USA during the war years.
I’ve seen assertions that harp repair and custom work is something which never happened before Filisko and Sleigh et al, early 90s. But I’ve also been aware that the accomplished players of the 20s and 30s (for instance) were working on the chromatics (for instance), which makes a lot of sense; if you’ve ever spent time with a chromatic you know they need maintenance.
I know there were probably lots of harps already in the zone by 1940, so maybe that’s all there is to it. There may not have even been a noticeable shortage.
I wonder though.

Last Edited by SuperBee on Feb 09, 2020 2:04 PM
6480 posts
Feb 09, 2020
2:18 PM
F.A. Böhm:
Established 1850, Untersachsenberg (Klingenthal)
Along with Rauner and Seydel, Böhm was one of the big makers in the Klingenthal area.
They also made concertinas and accordions.
They grew large enough by 1900 that Hohner sought commercial intelligence about them, although this was in connection with Hohner’s interest in the accordion business.
Harmonica production ended around 1950. Accordions were made for a while longer.
The company continued as Böhm-Electronic until 1972, when it was completely nationalized. They made electronic keyboards and amplifiers which were sold throughout Eastern Europe.
326 posts
Feb 13, 2020
11:23 PM
Here’s a link to a very detailed history of Hohner from 1857 - 1930
6496 posts
Feb 17, 2020
3:09 PM
Sundancer, that is the article Tom referred to above. I found it very interesting especially from a marketing perspective.
I want to know more about Hohner’s factories in Britain. It may already be covered in this thread, so I’ll have to go back and read over. I just noticed my Song Band tremolo has a sticker proclaiming it was made in Germany and England, then somebody mentioned some of the prewar 270 & or 260 1/2 were assembled in London. I’d like to know when this was happening.
119 posts
Feb 24, 2020
10:45 AM
Another good source of information about harmonica history is "Made in Germany - Played in USA: The History of the Mouth Organ in the USA" by Martin Haffner and Christoph Wagner. It is in both German and English.

I don't see a published date on it but I think it was printed about 1993.

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