After performing professional engagements with Sousa’s great band, Frank Holton opened up a small shop in Chicago in 1896, selling second hand instruments and his secret recipe of Electric Oil trombone slide oil. For the first two years, business was tight and Holton would spend evenings and weekends performing just to draw a salary to support his business. By 1898, business had sustained itself to the point that Holton could hire an instrument maker to begin making what he introduced as the “Holton Special” trombone. As business grew, his “Holton Harmony Hints” catalogue increased in size to include trombones, cornets, valve trombones, and mellophones by 1904. Business continued to grow and Holton’s instruments became the choice of top professionals including Vincent Bach, first trumpet for the Boston Symphony in 1914. In June 1919, to inspire a stronger workforce to move from Chicago to Elkhorn, Holton bought seventeen acres and contracted 27 houses built to offer to his employees. Production of top line professional instruments continued to grow. In 1929, Holton introduced a complete line of school grade instruments under the Holton Collegiate name. In 1964, after pressures to offer a complete range of woodwind instruments, the Holton Company sold to G Leblanc Corporation.
During Leblanc’s ownership, Holton would rise as a leader in low brass manufacturing. The support of well known artists such as Philip Farkas and Ethel Merker, Holton’s French horns became increasingly popular.