The small town of Trossingen, in Baden-Württemburg 106 km south-west of Stuttgart has a population of only 16,000 but is one of Europe’s most important centres for the manufacture of musical instruments. Christian Messner (1805-74) first made harmonicas in the town in the early 1830s. He was a weaver by trade who had accompanied his neighbour, a watchmaker, selling watches across Europe. He was inspired to make a harmonica after buying one in Vienna. The principal company in the town was founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner (1833-1902), a clockmaker who made his first harmonica two years earlier. Matthias Hohner AG recorded an output of 700 harmonicas in 1857 but ten years later, after the company began to make accordions, it had an output of 22,000 instruments a year. Hohner bought ought his principal competitors in 1867, invested heavily in machine tools and by 1880 was operating a substantial factory. His instruments were particularly popular in North America where they were played by settlers on the western plains. One person playing a harmonica or accordion could play folk tunes that reminded settlers of their distant homelands. By 1887 Hohner was making a million harmonicas a year of which 80 per cent were exported, and production had increased to four million by 1900.
The Deutschen Hamonikamuseum (German Harmonica Museum) was re-displayed in 2016 in Building V of the Hohmer factory. It holds 25,000 harmonicas from all over the world as well as a substantial collection of accordions. It uses multi-media displays to show the cultural impact across the world of the musical instruments made in Trossingen, and features film of bands and orchestras that specialised in playing harmonicas and accordions as well as individual players.
Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH is still based in Trossingen and now makes musical instruments of many kinds. The Hohner family were involved in the business until 1986. Ernst Hohner, (1886-1965), grandson of the founder, studied in France, the United Kingdom and the United States and managed the company for many years. The Ernst-Hohner-Konzerhaus in Trossingen bears his name.