How the Kimball Piano Company started is a real rags to riches kind of story. It is about a poor farm boy from Maine who was trying to make his way up the ladder to prosperity. W.W. Kimball started his career as a real estate and insurance salesman in Iowa in the mid 1800s when the piano industry caught his attention. He felt there was quite a possibility of making money in supplying goods to the pioneers who were heading west. Convinced that selling pianos was his next step to fortune, he founded W.W. Kimball & Co. in Chicago, IL in 1857 and soon thereafter became one of the largest sellers of keyboard instruments in the United States. By the 1880s, a shortage in merchandise turned Kimball in to his next business venture – actual piano production. In 1886, Kimball started manufacturing his own pianos and the early 1900s brought the company to its peak.
Difficult times would soon come for the company though. The Great Depression, changes in demand for pianos, and changes in management in the company all took their toll on the company. The company was sold to Jasper Corporation in 1959 and piano production was moved to Indiana. Jasper became known as Kimball International. In 1966, Kimball International bought the world renowned Austrian piano company, Bosendorfer. In the 1980’s they also bought Krakauer, a respected American piano company, as well as a number of other companies that dealt with supplies they needed for production. Today Kimball International is a fortune 500 company, but most of its involvement is with furniture making, custom cabinetry, electric assembly, and plastics. The company ceased their production of pianos by 1996 claiming the demand for their pianos was not good enough to continue.
During its many years of piano production, Kimball also produced pianos with the following names: Conn, Jasper-American, W.W Kimball, Hinze, Harrison, Schuerman, DeVoe & Sons, Whittaker, Becker, La Petite, Krakauer, Whitney.