Henderson White, the company's founder, began his career as the owner of a modest repair shop in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1894, White constructed his first trombone with the help of a local trombone player, Mr. Thomas King. Due to its significantly distinct bell, bore, and mouthpipe designs, this was recognised in the market as a "revelation" to the music industry. The "King" trombone was popular among players because its slide was smoother and lighter than any other.
Professionals such as Al Pinard, the trombone soloist with Arthur Pryor's Band, were quick to embrace these instruments.

The HN White Company established a "Department of Acoustical Research" in 1909 with the purpose of creating better instruments. King became noted for brass and woodwind instruments as production increased. During World War I, the HN White Company was the sole supplier of saxophones to the US military from 1917 to 1918. King would go on to become the first American manufacturer of French horns in the 1920s.
When Henderson died in 1940, Edna White, the first female executive officer in the male-dominated music industry, took over. The company thrived under her direction. Despite the fact that most of the company's brass goods were halted during WWII, Edna was able to get two big government contracts to manufacture radar systems and proximity fuses, which allowed the factory to continue operating.

With names like Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, and Charlie "The Bird" Parker, King instruments gained a lot of prominence in the 1940s and 1950s after the war. The King 3B trombone was debuted in 1951 and is the world's best-selling jazz trombone today.