How Harmonicas Have Changed Over The Past Century

Changes Over The Years

The humble harmonica has changed significantly over the past century.  What started out as an invention, has turned into the most popular instrument on the planet.

Listed below are the key changes to this instrument over the past 100 or so years.

The year was 1821

Sure this was over a century ago, but it is the humble beginnings of this amazing instrument.

It was a sixteen year old by the name of Christian Friedrich Buschmann who registered one of the first harmonica designs.

Major changes in 1857

A German clock maker by the name of Matthias Hohner began producing harmonicas full time in 1857.  With his family and friends he was able to produce 650 in the first year.  He then developed a mass production technique, and went on to create Hohner – the well know brand today.

Move to the United States

In 1862 Hohner brought the harmonica to the USA.  In 1887 his company became the leading in the world. They now produce over 90 different models of harmonica.

Early 20th century

Clutching on to the back of Hohner’s success, a range of other companies began producing harmonicas that were commercially viable.

This led to a decrease in price, as well as an increase in production.  Effectively, it made harmonicas available to everyone and started to revolutionize the music industry.

The 1930s

Larry Adler showed the versatility of the harmonica by bringing it to classical music.  This further helped to promote sales, and introduced the instrument to a whole new audience.  In the 1930s sales of harmonicas increased dramatically.

World War II and Short Supply

There was a significant shortage of harmonicas during World War II.  This was caused by less materials being available such as wood and metals, and also the fact that a lot of harmonicas were produced in Germany and Japan.

This led to the production of a plastic harmonica and again the mass production of harmonicas in the United States.

1950’s to 1970s

The increasing popularity of blues music, further increased the harmonica’s popularity.  In fact, there were people from all over the country flocking to see blues bands that featured harmonica playing.  The mix between tunes and singing really seemed to take America by storm.


Because of price, and the harmonica’s flexibility, it is still one of the most popular instruments on the planet.  Its history shows that it has stood the test of time, and that even when materials were not available, people still found a way to produce the instrument.

If history is any thing to go by, the harmonica will be popular for many years to come.  They are a fantastic instrument and put good music in the reach of almost everybody.

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