in Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Founder||William F. & Theobald Ludwig|
|Products||Drum kits, timpani, percussion|
The Ludwig Drum Company was established in 1909 by William F. & Theobald Ludwig, sons of a German immigrant to the United States. William Jr. had been a professional drummer, playing with circuses and touring vaudeville shows, along with the occasional skating-rink gig. Since this work was irregular, he and his brother, Theobald, opened a drum shop in Chicago; they called it Ludwig & Ludwig. The company started with a concept for the design and manufacture of a functional bass drum pedal.
The company added new products to its catalog, such as snare drums and timpani in 1916. In 1917, Ludwig signed a deal to build rope drums to support World War I. Theobald Ludwig died in 1918 and William continued on his own. By 1923, the factory was the largest drum manufacturer in the world, employing 240 workers. In the late 1920s, the company was sold to the C.G. Conn instrument company. William Ludwig stayed on to run the company for Conn (which also owned the Leedy Drum Co. at this time). Eventually, William Ludwig decided to leave Conn and start a new company of his own. He was unable to use the Ludwig name since that trademark now belonged to Conn who continued to market Ludwig & Ludwig drums.
In 1937, William bought a factory building and started The WFL Drum Company (his initials). The company continued producing drums at a small scale for the duration of World War II but after the armistice William got back to the idea of making the company a large drum manufacturer. WFL was a competitor with Ludwig and Ludwig. Conn combined their two drum brands into one in the early 1950s forming Leedy & Ludwig and then decided to quit the drum business altogether. In 1955, William and his son Bill Jr. were able to buy the Ludwig trademark back from Conn and over the next few years their company and its products transitioned from the WFL brand to being called "Ludwig" again. (As an aside, grandson William F. Ludwig, III, has his own drum company WFLlll. At present, the company only manufactures snare drums with steel or wooden shells; all hand signed on the inside of the shell by Bill himself; as well as a limited-production acrylic snare, etched with the iconic "Top Hat & Gloves" styling once used by his grandfather. The company has future plans to manufacture full drum sets.)
William Ludwig's grandson
Despite success, Ludwig's breakthrough would occur February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their historic American TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the Ludwig logo, displayed on the front of Ringo Starr's bass drum, could be seen by the television audience of about seventy-three million people. As it happens, Starr chose that brand upon joining the band simply because he liked the oyster pearl black color of the drum kit he chose. Regardless, the publicity resulted in Ludwig's sales doubling quickly to $13 million, which prompted production to increase to a 24/7 production as the company became the foremost drum manufacturer in North America for twenty years.
Ludwig was a strong presence in the marching drum market. Their drums along with their Slingerland rivals. During the 1970s, Ludwig's "Challenger" line of snare drums offered sophisticated tuning and strong build quality. Ludwig drums were used by many leading drum and bugle corp.
On 4 November 1981 William F Ludwig II sold the business to the Selmer Company (now Conn-Selmer). Selmer closed the Damen Avenue factory in the ensuing years and moved the drum production business to Monroe, North Carolina in 1984. The Musser manufacturing facility remained in LaGrange, Illinois until 2013, and was then moved to Elkhart, Indiana. In 2015 Conn-Selmer discontinued a significant portion of the Musser mallet line.
Ludwig drum set used by Alex Van Halen.