William Walace Kimball was an American businessman who was involved in real estate brokerage. When the market was under threat and the economic situation in America was uncertain, he decided to change his business and sell pianos. In 1857 he founded W.W. Kimball Company in Chicago to sell leading piano brands (Chickering & Sons, Hallet-Davis, Emerson etc.). It is worth noting that in the first years he was only a dealer, he did not deal with instrument production.
After about 20 years, Kimball's company also produced reed organs and sold them with great success. The various components of these instruments were bought from outside companies and assembled in Kimball's own factory and then sold on an increasing scale. This was around 1882. The first Kimball factory started to build upright pianos five years later in a factory created especially for this purpose, in response to a growing market. These were average instruments, so in order to improve their quality William hired technicians from renowned manufactures such as Steinway & Sons. Gradually, upright pianos were gaining in quality and popularity, becoming part of many American homes in the early 20th century.
Kimball has also expanded its activities to include the production of small and large-size pipe organs (their production took place over a period of about 50 years), as well as phonographs. The company continued to grow until the Great Depression and then World War II. After these events, the financial situation of not only the W.W. Kimball Company, but of almost all the manufactories did not allow for further development. An attempt was still made to build the factory in the 1950s, but production costs exceeded the company's income. As a result of these events, W.W. Kimball Company was sold in 1959 and became a part of The Jasper Corporation - a producer of wooden elements, mainly furniture. Its owner Arnold F. Habig led the company to renewed success within a decade, and in the 1970s the Jasper Corporation name was changed to Kimball International - this brand also included furniture and electronic equipment still in production. Gradually, Kimball has again become a leader in the production of upright pianos, grand pianos and similar instruments such as consoles and spinets. For 30 years, Jasper Corporation and later Kimball International also owned the Bösendorfer brand, purchased from Austria in 1966.
An interesting event of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics has been recorded in the history of Kimball and the United States, because 84 Kimball pianos were delivered to the opening. The pianists performed together with the Blue Rhapsody Orchestra of G. Gershwin. It was a spectacular spectacle! Soon there came a time when interest in classical upright and grand pianos fell significantly, their sales stopped making significant profits and the factory suspended the production of Kimball instruments in 1996. The last Kimball piano produced was symbolically signed by every employee and is located in the Kimball office in Jasper.
Nowadays, we can still meet new Kimball upright and grand pianos, but they are mainly made in China and put together and finished in America. Their construction is different from the previous American pianos.
Although the success of Kimball upright and grand pianos was very significant, these instruments are not of the highest rank - rather they are rated as middle class. Each model would have to be assessed individually; in general, they are long-lasting upright and grand pianos, but rarely completely renovated. We encourage you to browse the offers of Kimball pianos on our Klaviano search engine.
Kimball grand piano serial numbers