Panasonic was founded in 1918 by Kōnosuke Matsushita as a vendor of duplex lamp sockets. In 1927, it began producing bicycle lamps, the first product which it marketed under the brand name National.
During World War II the company operated factories in Japan and other parts of Asia which produced electrical components and appliances such as light fixtures, motors, electric irons, wireless equipment and its first vacuum tubes.
After the war, Panasonic regrouped as a Keiretsu and began to supply the post-war boom in Japan with radios and appliances, as well as bicycles. Matsushita's brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, founded Sanyo as a subcontractor for components after World War II. Sanyo grew to become a competitor to Panasonic, but was later acquired by Panasonic in December 2009.
In 1961, Konosuke Matsushita traveled to the United States and met with American dealers. The company began producing television sets for the U.S. market under the Panasonic brand name, and expanded the use of the brand to Europe in 1979.
The company used the National brand outside of North America from the 1950s to the 1970s (the trademark could not be used in the United States because it was already in use by the National Radio Company in a closely related product area). It sold televisions, VHS VCRs, high fidelity stereo receivers, multi-band shortwave radios and marine radio direction finders, often exported to North America under various U.S. brand names, such as Technics, Emerson, Curtis Mathes and of course Panasonic. The company also developed a line of home appliances such as rice cookers for the Japanese and Asian markets. Rapid growth resulted in the company opening manufacturing plants around the world.