The Slingerland Company was founded in 1912 when H.H. Slingerland won a ukulele instructional book business in a card game. The company quickly expanded into producing ukes and, by 1919, banjos. In 1928, Slingerland began manufacturing drums, and the name was changed to the Slingerland Banjo and Drum Company. Slingerland opened a plant on Belden Avenue in Chicago (across the street from the stockyards) which included its own tannery for producing drum and banjo heads.
In the 1980s and early 1990s the rights to the Slingerland name were bought and sold numerous times. Finally, in 1994, Gibson Guitar Corp. acquired Slingerland, reinforcing Gibson's commitment to percussion instruments. Gibson had prior experience and success in the percussion market representing first Pearl and then Mapex in the United States.
In 1995, Gibson decided to focus exclusively on high-end drum kits under the Slingerland name and ended its association with Mapex. A new plant, dedicated to producing Radio King snares and high-quality Studio King kits, opened in Nashville in mid-1995. Once again, the Slingerland name stands for the finest drums in the world.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Slingerland was the choice of many top drummers, including Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. In 1964, the company opened a plant in Niles, Illinois, and for many years enjoyed the distinction of being the world's largest drum company.
Slingerland marching drums were produced as early as the 1920s. By the 1970s, the Slingerland line of marching equipment had become very popular in marching bands, colleges, and drum corps. During the late 1970s, Slingerland introduced its TDR marching snare drum, with a novel strainer and synthetic-gut snare that produced a distinctive sound. Another late-'70s innovation was the Slingerland cutaway multi-tenors that were carried in trios, quad, or quint arrangements. The cutaway design was first used in 1977 by the Santa Clara Vanguard under drum caption head Fred Sanford and the Oakland Crusaders under Tom Float. Famous drum corps such as the 27th Lancers of Revere, Massachusetts, the Bridgemen of Bayonne N.J., the Pittsburgh Royal Crusaders and the General Butler Vagabonds all used Slingerland equipment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the early 1980s, Slingerland was gaining significant market share, but the company was sold, and corporate finances fell apart. By the late 1980s, Slingerland had fallen behind technologically, and Ludwig, and especially Pearl, began to pick up its market share.
After introducing the Magnum series in the late 1970s, Slingerland lost its footing, and the company folded. In the late 1990s, the Slingerland name was revived by Gibson.They are a much smaller company, with a much smaller market share than they had in the glory days, when the Slingerland name was strong and widely recognized.
Around the year 2003, Gibson made a final push to get the brand back into stores, requiring guitar dealers to take one set of Slingerlands with their yearly order. This effort failed as the drums were not in line with what the market desired. Manufacturing of the drums has been ceased, and Slingerland drums are no longer available.