The History of Sonor. A Not So Brief Discussion of the World’s Finest Drums. Johannes Link. Born in 1848 in a small village in Bavaria. Began career as a wood turner and leather tanner
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The History of Sonor A Not So Brief Discussion of the World’s Finest Drums
Johannes Link • Born in 1848 in a small village in Bavaria. • Began career as a wood turner and leather tanner • In 1875 opened a work shop in Weißenfels on the river Saale manufacturing drumheads and simple military drums
Trommelfabrik von Johannes Link circa 1888 The Link factory of Leipzigerstraße, Weißenfels/Salle
By 1899 Jos. Link had expanded his product line to include timpani and Concert Percussion
The Ludwig Connection • Young Wm. F. Ludwig played a snare duet in 1902 with Tom Mills who owned a European made 6.5x13 brass shelled snare drum he bought while touring with John Phillip Sousa. • After years of trying, WFL eventually obtained the drum and used it as the model for Ludwig & Ludwig’s first production snares in 1911.
1907 • The Sonor trademark is registered with the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin.
1914 • Son, Otto Link, assumes management of the firm after Johannes’ passing. • Company expands with the addition of a sawmill and establishes a wholesale branch in Markneukirchen. • Otto Link later becomes Consul to Sweden and a personal friend of King Gustav V
The Fire of 1919 A fire destroyed most of Link’s original Leipzigerstraße facility. A nearby site, “Am Bad” in Weißenfels was purchased to replace it. In the ensuing years, Sonor became the largest manufacturer of percussion instruments in Europe.
1925 - Sonor’s 50th Anniversary By 1925 Sonor had 145 employees and was one of the largest businesses of its kind
The company continued to expand, innovate and survive between the wars. Sometimes successfully…
Sometimes not… 30” x 30” Square Bass Drum
Sonor Jazz Kits Sonor “Jazz” kits similar to those being made in the US at the time
Military contracts kept the company busy during the war Left: A wartime Johannes Link parade snare Right: The ID stamp
The War Ends In 1945, at the close of World War II, Otto Link's son Horst returned from military service to begin work at the family business. However, when the Russian occupation forces in East Germany began arresting the returning German soldiers and sending them to Siberia, Horst fled to Aue, in the British-occupied section of Germany. There, he established a tannery in a rundown army barracks and began making drum heads for the Sonor factory in Weissenfels. Contact between father and son was limited by the presence of the Russians; however, Horst managed an occasional late-night visit to Weissenfels.
Aue: A New Beginning The former barracks building in Aue, Westfalia converted for use as a tannery
1950: Escape • Shortly after the close of World War II and the partition of Germany, the East German government began expropriating private property. Large business were the first to be taken over by the state. But in 1950, after the East German border was effectively sealed, the directive came down to nationalize the Sonor drum operation. One morning security police abruptly occupied the Sonor factory and then sent a detachment to arrest Otto Link at his home. A maid at the Link's home was able to detain the police in the parlor of the house long enough for Otto Link to jump out a second-story window and make a desperate escape. • Link fled to first to Leipzig, and then to East Berlin, where he was given shelter by old friends. There he sent word to Horst, and the two carefully mapped out a remarkable escape plan. Horst flew into East Berlin where he chartered an ambulance, hired a fake doctor, and bandaged his father from head to toe. With sirens blaring, he drove the ambulance to the West German border and used a falsified West German passport to persuade border guards that his father was a West German citizen in desperate need of medical attention. The guards let him pass to freedom. Link's daring escape from the East Bloc was later widely publicized. Six months later, Otto Link's wife also escaped. • The Weissenfels factory eventually became the Tacton Drum company which manufactured until just before German reunification in 1991. After the Berlin Wall fell, the Links went back in hopes of regaining their property, but found an empty dilapidated building and all the machinery gone.
Rebirth • Once in the safety of West Germany, the Links were confronted with the daunting prospect of rebuilding their drum company with no equipment, workers, or money. Financing to rebuild the company came from an unexpected source. After reading of Otto Link's escape, the King of Sweden began searching for a way to help his old friend. Because of Sweden's neutral status, he could not personally provide financial assistance to Link, so he asked a Swedish noblewoman, the Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein, to help. The princess provided start-up capital for the "new" Sonor drum company and remained a shareholder until 1985, when the Link family purchased her shares. • Starting a drum company in Aue was no small feat. The area was largely populated by dairy farmers, and there were no skilled workers to draw on. Reflecting, Horst Link says, "The lack of skilled labor initially made our job very difficult. We had to train everyone from scratch. But over the years, having located in Aue has helped us immeasurably. We have a stable and loyal work force that we could never duplicate in a larger city."
1952 – back to work • The Links rebuild with the assistance of Swedish friends. Product line consists of many prewar designs but also gives indications of great things to come.
1955: The Modern Sonor Emerges • Consul Otto Link dies • Horst Link assumes control
International Marketing Sonor aggressively markets to the rest of Europe and North America. Shell sizes are changed from metric measurements to international standard inches. The product line and build quality is the equal to and in many cases superior to the traditional American powerhouses Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch and Rogers.
Self-Sufficiency • Sonor continues to modernize and yet like Henry Ford 60 years earlier, makes most components in-house. Raw materials come in, finished products go out. This tradition continues into the early 1990’s. • Wood and metalworking, plating, cymbalsmiths and tannery all operate side by side under the same roof(s). • Extensive handcrafting assures high quality standards.
The factory in 1965 A steady expansion in floorspace to service the needs of Sonor’s growing global market
The late 60’s & early 1970’s • 6-ply beech shells • Furniture grade finishes including rosewood and walnut • Upgraded hardware & fittings • Tasteful, yet aggressive advertizing sets Sonor apart from the rest of the pack.
1970’s products • 1971 - The entry level Swinger series
1970’s products • 1973 - The entry level Rocker 2000 series
1970’s products • 1974 – The Champion and Super Champion