The accordion, invented in the early 19th century, is a reed instrument, not unlike an oversized harmonica. Instead of the player blowing air through the instrument via his mouth, a bellows is squeezed, forcing air across the reeds. Tonalities can be changed and chords can be played using various techniques and keys associated with different styles of accordion. Some of the most highly regarded of these instruments are produced by Hohner, a German musical instrument company.
In 1857, Matthias Hohner founded the company that bears his name with the intention of producing musical instruments. Initially, harmonicas were the main product line and Hohner harmonicas are still renowned for their high quality. As a fledgling musical instrument company, Hohner produced some accordions during this early period, but they were not produced on a wide scale. In 1893, the product line was expanded to include accordions in greater numbers of production, and Hohner's legacy of accordion production began.
By the turn of the century, the Hohner company had grown into a leading manufacturer of harmonicas, and by the 1930s, the popularity of the accordion propelled Hohner's sales even higher in Germany. Accordions were heard especially often on the radio. Throughout World War II, Hohner's musical instrument production was slowed, with the company being contracted to produce detonators, leading to the implementation of mechanised mass-production equipment.
A Change in Fortune
By the 1950s, Hohner had resumed its production of musical instruments. With the rise in popularity of rock music, Hohner's traditional instruments saw a decline in sales, as the electric guitar became the instrument of choice for most famous musicians of the time. The folk music movement brought briefly renewed interest in Hohner's harmonica lines as they were seen in the hands of some of rock's most popular performers, such as Bob Dylan, but, as more musicians began to plug in, wind instruments like the harmonica began decreasing in popularity again.
Innovation and Decline
In the later half of the 20th century, Hohner's product lines broadened. Electronic instruments became popular in the 1970s, and Hohner devoted some of its attention to developing innovative and cutting-edge electronic instruments, while still producing high-quality harmonicas and accordions. The 1980s saw a marked decline in Hohner sales. Budget-priced educational instruments proved to be one of the areas in which Hohner saw much success, and in the 1989s, Hohner had been accquired by another company.
Return to Profitability
Throughout the 1990s, the Hohner company changed hands again, but the 21st century saw the return of Hohner's profitability, and a newly realised marketability for its products. Hohner's high-quality accordions continue to garner popularity in the hands of musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. Rob Hyman of the rock band The Hooters is listed as an endorser of Hohner accordions, as well as David Hidalgo of crossover band Los Lobos, and Tex-Mex Conjunto star Flaco Jimenez.