Two brothers, William and Theobaldner Ludwig, formed the Ludwig Company with a single product, a bass drum pedal capable of playing faster beats than was typical of products of the time. Building merchandise in a rented barn on the south side of Chicago, the Ludwig brothers next developed a hydraulic action timpani and, in 1916, invented a spring mechanism—the basis for the current Balanced Action Pedal Timpani. Production then expanded into other types of drums and banjo-type instruments, especially brass snare drums and wooden drums.
From 1925-1930, Ludwig made two models of ukulele-banjo, each being prized by players of the instrument to this day. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the company merged with the C.G. Conn Company. William F. Ludwig left the company in 1936, opening his own company, the W.F.L. Drum Company, in 1937. The first product of W.F.L. was the Speed King pedal, a product later manufactured by Ludwig and continuing production to this date. In 1955, the Ludwig division was purchased back from Conn and renamed the Ludwig Drum Company. In 1973, William F. Ludwig, Sr. died, and was succeeded by his son, William F. Ludwig Bradfield, Jr.
Today, Ludwig drums and timpani are manufactured in Monroe, North Carolina, with timpani and mallet instruments produced in LaGrange Park, Illinois. Certain lines of Ludwig Drums, marketed as the Accent, Accent CS, Accent CS Custom, and Accent CS Custom Elite Series, are manufactured for Ludwig in Asia and imported into the North American market.