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Pearl was founded by Katsumi Yanagisawa on April 2, 1946, manufacturing music stands in Sumida, Tokyo. It wasn't untl four years later, in 1950, that Yanagisawa shifted his focus to manufacturing drums — renaming his company Pearl Industry, Ltd.
By 1953 the company's name had changed yet again... this time to Pearl Musical Instrument Company. Their manufacturing had expanded to include drum kits, marching drums, timpani, Latin percussion instruments, cymbals, stands, and accessories.
Mitsuo, Yanagisawa's eldest son, joined the Pearl company in 1957, forming a division to export Pearl products worldwide. In order to meet increasing for drum kits, Pearl built a 15,000 sq. ft. factory in Chiba, Japan in 1961 to produce inexpensive drum kits that bore the brand names of more than thirty distributors such as Maxwin, CB-700, Stewart, Werco, Ideal, Crest, Revelle, Revere, Lyra, Majestic, Whitehall, Apollo, Toreador, Roxy, and Coronet.
In 1966, Pearl introduced its first professional drum kit, the "President Series". For a time in the early 1970s, Pearl was distributed in the U.S. by Norlin, the parent company of Gibson guitars at the time.
Today, Pearl's Taiwanese operation encompasses five factories whose output supplies nearly the entire worldwide market for Pearl products. The original Chiba factory now caters to the domestic Japanese market, producing drum kits, marching drums, timpani, and symphonic chimes.
Adams Musical Instruments are sold in the U.S. through Pearl dealers, Hughes and Kettner guitar and bass amplifiers are distributed through Pearl's main warehouse in Nashville, Tennessee and Sabian cymbals are distributed in Japan through Pearl dealers.
Pearl created several drum products, such as shells in the 1970s that were made of wood with a fiber-glass lining. There was also a shell made of a composite called "Phenolic." Additionally, Pearl combined roto-toms and these Phenolic shells to create the Vari-Pitch line of drums. Other early innovations included shells that were slightly undersized, so that the drum head would extend over the edges, much like a gong drum. Pearl manufactured seamless, extruded acrylic shells that were different from the tabbed-and-seamed Vistalite shells used by Ludwig. Pearl also developed the hinged tube tom-arm, a design widely copied by many other drum manufacturers.