In for the Long Run: Hamilton Stands Turns 125
Since 1883 Hamilton Stands has been a recognized leader in the design and engineering of print music and instrument stands. For 125 years the name of the Ohio-based company has been associated with quality and durability and is widely recognized throughout the music products industry. Stalwarts of the Hamilton line include guitar stands and accessories, wind instrument stands, a bass viol stand, and symphonic, portable, and folding sheet music stands.
The Hamilton line was developed by the Krauth and Benninghofen families in Hamilton, Ohio, as an adjunct to their principal business, the Hamilton Autographic Register Company. The firm made its name manufacturing devices that would print a customer receipt and a duplicate receipt for record-keeping. How this endeavor led to the manufacture of music stands in lost in the mists of time, but catalogs from as early as 1904 suggest the market then was for salon and ensemble music since the earliest products were in no way portable like today’s stands, but rather fixed furniture pieces featuring lamps, and employing wood and cast iron in their designs. However, it’s interesting to note that even at the dawn of the 20th century, the line also boasted a forerunner of the popular KB400 stand. Many of the early Hamilton Stands products were patented and the line was featured in a display at the St. Louis International Exposition in 1906.
In the ensuing decades Hamilton Stands established itself as a premiere name in the field of music and instrument stands. However, by the 1960s the parent company was in decline and in 1965 was sold to Chicago Musical Instrument Co. (CMI) which was then in the midst of building a “music conglomerate” that would include Gibson, Lowrey and several other well-known companies. Hamilton was later sold to the James David Company, a furniture maker, and was acquired in 1982 by Virgil Maines and Ben Diesbach, who had long been affiliated with the Hamilton firm. Maines eventually bought out Diesbach’s shares and assumed sole ownership, which he passed on to his three children in 2000.
New Owner, New Directions
Today, Hamilton Stands is located in Lebanon, Ohio, where it conducts its active product design work. Since Hamilton was acquired in 2006 by industry veteran Bill Carpenter, the company increasingly sources its products from experienced music products manufacturers in the Pacific Rim, continuing a trend begun in 2004 with the Hamilton World Stands line.
What drew Carpenter to acquire Hamilton Stands? “I had learned from experience that brand-recognition and equity are of the utmost importance,” he comments. “Without it, a business is a struggle. Hamilton Stands had a great reputation for quality and service that I was well aware of. The other factor, based on my experience, was that I wanted to be involved in something I could do myself. With Hamilton Stands, this was a case where I saw good potential and I could afford to do it.”
Certainly, Carpenter brings a rich and varied professional background to the task. A drummer, he joined Remo Inc. shortly after graduating from college in 1976. For the next six years he worked in product development and became what he terms “a self-trained mechanical engineer.” He departed Remo and the MI industry in 1982 to join Plastiglide, a furniture manufacturer and a division of Illinois Tool Works, where he rose to general manager of the Plastiglide division. During this period he also earned an MBA degree from Pepperdine University.
Carpenter rejoined Remo in 1994 as its general manager. Most of next two years were devoted to overseeing design and construction of the extensive Remo facility in Valencia, Calif.
In 1996 Boosey & Hawkes recruited him to run Rico Reeds, which B&H was in the process of acquiring from the Knaub family. He later oversaw the move of the Boosey & Hawkes Musical Instruments from the Chicago area to Southern California, where it shared space with Rico.
When the decision was made to sell Boosey & Hawkes Musical Instruments, Carpenter, along with Michael and Joachim Winter (of Germany’s Winter Case Co.), began making presentations to interested parties, but eventually they were given the go-ahead by Boosey managing director Richard Holland to take a shot at acquiring the business themselves. The trio found a venture capital partner in UK-based Rutland Group and engineered the buyout, establishing The Music Group comprised of the Buffet, Crampon, Rico, Schreiber, Keilwerth and Winter firms. The Music Group was short-lived, however, as both Winter brothers departed and Carpenter had the task of selling off the component companies while based in Germany.
Back in United States in 2005, Carpenter began looking for new opportunities at the NAMM Summer Session in Indianapolis. There he heard about the availability of Hamilton Stands and entered into discussions with its owners. The purchase was completed in January, 2006.
After two years at the helm, Carpenter identifies the main trend in stands to be a rebirth of innovation following a fallow period he describes as being marked by “generic design sensibilities, not a lot of creativity or elegance, and meeting a demand for inexpensive products.
“There’s a move away from products and brands that are, frankly, tough to tell apart,” he continues. “There really is a great need for more good design, which is something we are addressing at Hamilton (see sidebar, New at NAMM). We are striving to position ourselves as a player in the design end of things by developing new products that are both unique and add value.”
The last year has seen Hamilton Stands make the decision to close its Ohio manufacturing facility and concentrate its stateside efforts on bolstering both its marketing and product design.
“Before I came here, the company had already outsourced some production to factories in Taiwan and China,” Carpenter reports. “We are continuing to work with these companies as well as a Chinese-owned manufacturer in Vietnam that has been in the stand business for decades. You have to keep a close eye on where products are being made these days because the curve continues to shorten in terms of escalating costs. For example, we moved some manufacturing to Vietnam because prices were rising in China. When you look back, Japan had a 20-year run of manufacturing dominance, for Korea and Taiwan it was more like 15 years, and empirical evidence suggests China’s current position of strength will last no more than around 10 years.”
Looking a little further down the road, Carpenter sees a future opportunity for Hamilton Stands in the realm of export. “We were always held back from much exporting in the past because of the weight of many stand products,” he points out. “Now our business model in the U.S. includes using a fulfillment warehouse to supply our wholesale customers. We’re looking into ways this model might be replicated offshore where we can operate as a value-added supplier in foreign markets.”
New at NAMM from Hamilton Stands
“Unique” and “value-added” at the watchwords these days at Hamilton Stands. Here are a few NAMM Show introductions [exhibit 3505] that live up to that promise.
Portable Nu-Era Microphone Stands are lightweight tabletop and floor- standing microphone stands for home, school, business, remote location, and A/V uses. An innovative leg and brace design is fast and easy to use and nearly horizontal when setup. Both models are exceptionally compact and light enough to be carried in a gig bag, shoulder bag, or backpack.
The KB810 tabletop model adjusts from 10”-16” and weighs 10 oz. The KB820 floor standing model extends from 27 ½”-62” in three sections and weighs 20 oz. The mic clip can be lifted on and off the stand quickly and easily. Both feature durable black finishes and come with a mic clip and cloth carrying bag with a microphone pouch.
The suggested retail price on the KB810 is $9.99 and $18.99 on the KB820.
Incorporating engineered ‘U’ channel legs and braces, the new KB220 and KB240 cymbal stands are lighter weight. The channel design provides stability while allowing easier transport by the gigging drummer.
The KB220 features a flat base design for placing close-in to the drummer and folds to 24”. The KB240 offers a larger footprint ‘A’ shape base and folds to 32”.
Both feature dampened telescoping tubes to control rattles, 8mm cymbal post threads, double felt, cast wing nuts and durable black polymer feet.
The suggested retail price of the KB220 is $65 and $85 for the KB240.
The Encore line of cushioned musician’s chairs is being introduced with back and seat angles designed to promote proper posture in wind and string instrument players. The cushioned seating provides more comfort, less fatigue, and better circulation than hardshell chairs and is recommended for classroom, stage, and concert hall venues.
The chairs stack on their square steel frames, rather than on the cushion as some brands do. Protective bumpers protect the finish when stacking and all four legs have metal swivel glides for easy sliding and to protect flooring. The rear leg angle makes it difficult for the user to tip the chair back on its legs.
Two models are currently offered, the KB1000 for wind and string players and the KB1100 for cellists. The wind and string chair features a back angle that helps develop and maintain a posture for better breathing and diaphragm support. The back, which is lower than some other brands, helps French horn players who need their right arm and shoulder pushed back when performing. The KB1100 cellist’s chair has the seat angle pitched forward to assist in achieving a proper and comfortable playing position.
A variety of frame colors and upholstery fabrics and colors is offered. The chair frames carry a 10-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
Introduced in the early 1950s, the KB275 snare drum stand from Hamilton quickly became the choice of concert and drumset performers. This classic is now being re-issued by Hamilton Stands.
The new KB275 Snare Drum Stand is a faithful reproduction and, like the original, features a drum basket that accommodates 12”-17” diameter without changing the height of the drum’s bottom rim. Also, its design does not put pressure on the counter hoop which can make it out of round.
The base is rugged and durable, with double strip steel legs and a specially engineered anti-drop bushing that resists the center post from falling when being adjusted.
The range of height adjustment, from 21 ½”-35” is greater than most other stands available. Like the original, the KB275 sports red polymer feet.
Also being introduced is a companion stand, the KB274, which is designed especially for drumset use with a smaller footprint and lower height range.
The suggested list price of both models is $99.
Responding to players’ needs, Hamilton has introduced Bone Socks and Pet Socks for the bell cups and support shafts of trombone and trumpet stands.
Made of black micro-fiber with an elastic opening, the Bone Sock for trombone and the Pet Sock for trumpet fit the Hamilton and Hamilton World Stands products as well as those of many other brands.
The Socks absorb moisture that collects as a horn rests on a stand and cushion the horn as it is placed on and taken off the stand.The Socks are washable and can be left on the stand during transport and storage.
KB511 is the part number for the Bone Sock while KB501 is for the Pet Sock. Both are packed in a poly bag with header card and have a suggested retail price of $3.99.