Martin Band Instrument Company

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Martin Band Instrument Company
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1905 (1905)
FounderHenry Charles Martin
Defunct2007 (2007)
Area served
United States
ProductsBand instruments
OwnerUnused trademark of a publicly traded conglomerate
ParentSteinway Musical Instruments,
Conn-Selmer division,
Leblanc company

The Martin Band Instrument Company was a musical instrument manufacturer in Elkhart, Indiana.


John Henry Martin and the first Martin company[edit]

John Henry (Johann Heinrich) Martin was born February 24, 1835, in Dresden, Germany. He learned to make instruments in the old way as an apprentice to the instrument maker Christian Hammig of Markneukirchen, Germany, from 1850–54, according to the archives of Musikinstrumenten-Museum. In 1855 he emigrated to the United States and followed his trade, first in New York by establishing "The Martin Company" and the later part of 1865 in Chicago. It is believed that Martin was the first maker of musical instruments in Chicago. In 1871 the original Martin factory was destroyed by the great Chicago fire. The family lost everything and was reunited three days after the fire when they met on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1876 the family moved to Elkhart, Indiana, where John Henry became an employee of the early Conn Company. During this period his employment was sporadic and he worked for other instrument manufacturers. Some of these companies were The Michigan Musical Manufacturing Company of Detroit, Michigan and the early York & Sons Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Because of ill health, he retired from making instruments in 1902 and died on November 25, 1910.

Henry Charles Martin and the Martin Band Instrument Company[edit]

The eldest son of John Henry Martin was Henry Charles Martin (b. New York City, 12 January 1866; d. Elkhart, 8 November 1927). From about 1890 he worked for Conn as his father had done. Martin family sources claim that the Martin Band Instrument Company began in 1905. It may have been setting up at this date with very limited production, however it wasn't until 1910 that the company was in full operation with Henry Charles Martin, Robert J. Martin, Charles E. Martin and Frederick Martin as president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer respectively. Family sources indicate that the four brothers fought incessantly over the company, and in 1912 Francis Compton bought a major share and assumed the position as vice-president from 1912 to 1917. Charles Henry Martin remained as president until 1917. In 1922 he was working for Buescher. It is known in a letter dated 1923 that Martin expressed his desire to begin tooling for a third Martin company, but in 1924 he suffered the first of three strokes and was forced to resign from Buescher.

The company from 1912 to 1971[edit]

From 1912 into the 1920s production expanded rapidly to include a full line of brasswinds and saxophones for the professional and amateur markets. The trademark name "Martin Handcraft" acquired modifiers designating specific models such as "Master," "Troubador," "Imperial," "Committee," and "Standard," with "Standard" designating second-line instruments sold under Martin's name prior to 1942. "The Indiana by Martin" designated second-line instruments until the early 1960s, followed by "Medalist" and "Imperial" (not to be confused with Handcraft Imperial). The mid-1930s saw introduction of the "Martin Committee" model trumpets and "Martin Handcraft Committee" saxophones. The "Handcraft Committee" name for saxophones was dropped in 1945. Martin's postwar "Committee III" saxophones were branded "The Martin (saxophone type)" without the "Handcraft," although the "Committee" name for saxophones was officially revived during the late 1950s. Martin also produced limited edition and commemorative versions of their saxophones with names such as "Centennial' and "Music Man" and, from 1956 on, a deluxe version called the "Magna." Martin was also a major source of "stencil" instruments sold under various merchandisers' brands. Martin created the Indiana Band Instrument Company in 1928 as a paper entity to distribute its second-line products sold under those brands. That entity was officially dissolved by 1942. Some of the stencil instruments such as "Dick Stabile" and "Olds Super" saxophones were professional grade. Martin saxophones were distinctive for having tonehole chimneys soldered onto the body decades after other manufacturers switched to drawing them out of the body tube to save production costs.[1]

In 1961 Paul E. Richards combined Martin, E. K. Blessing, and F.A. Reynolds under the "Roundtable of Music Craftsmen," or RMC. Richards desired increased production for the student market. Key personnel left the company and the arrangement fell apart in 1964. The rights to the Martin trademark were taken over by Wurlitzer, and the Martin factory became a division of Wurlitzer in Elkhart. Wurlitzer eventually discontinued production of saxophones and sold low-quality saxophones made by Malerne as "The Martin". In 1971 the rights to the Martin name were bought by Leblanc, and Wurlitzer closed the old Martin factory.


Leblanc was an early importer of Yanagisawa saxophones and sold some of those instruments as "The Martin" before marketing them under the producer's own name. Leblanc produced Martin-branded brasswinds at their factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Leblanc used the "Committee" brand for its Kenosha-produced trumpet although it was in fact based on a Holton design. Use of Martin's "Committee" name for trumpets and "Urbie Green" name for trombones continued until 2007.

The Leblanc Company was bought by the Conn-Selmer Corporation in 2004. The Martin brand was discontinued when Leblanc's Kenosha facility was closed in 2007.



  • McMakin, Dean "Musical Instrument Manufacturing in Elkhart, Indiana" (unpublished typescript, 1987, available at Elkhart Public Library)
  • Elkhart city directories (available Elkhart Public Library)
  • The Elkhart Truth, Saturday 26 November 1910, obituary of John Henry Martin
  • Elkhart Daily Review, Saturday 26 November 1910, obituary of John Henry Martin
  • The Elkhart Truth, Tuesday 8 November 1927, obituary of Henry Charles Martin

See also[edit]