Did You Realize: That IBM Was Started Here?

Today GM introduces yet another in his long line of occasional series: Did You Realize? As he digs into the history of Georgetown, GM sometimes comes across a fact or story that is surprising and not widely known.

For the first installment of this new series, GM asks you this: Did you realize that IBM was started here?

It’s true. It all started with the 1890 Census. The prior census almost took an entire decade to compile. Thus to complete the 1890 census on time, the Census Bureau realized that they needed to turn to technology. Serendipitously, just one year earlier, a Buffalo inventor, Herman Hollerith, received a patent on the great-great-great-grandfather of the computer hard-drive: the punched card. Recognizing the benefit of Hollerith’s invention, the Census Bureau hired him.

In 1892 he set up shop in the warehouse picture above on 31st st. right on the canal. In 1896 he created the Tabulating Machine Company. In 1910 he moved into a stately home on upper 29th St.

And in 1911, Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company and three other companies merged together to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Company. C-T-R’s Canadian subsidiary was called International Business Machines, in 1924 C-T-R, under the leadership of Thomas Watson, adopted its subsidiary’s name. And thus IBM came into being.

Nowadays you can eat oysters where Hollerith churned through the 1890 census: the warehouse is now occupied by Sea Catch.




Filed under Did You Realize?

9 responses to “Did You Realize: That IBM Was Started Here?

  1. SL

    Hah, neat info. I live next to this building, thx for the article

  2. Carol Joynt

    I love you, GM, because you come up with categories like “Did You Realize?” Rock on, pal.

  3. Work in the Building

    I work in this building – I love going down to the Sea Catch back hallway where they have old pictures of the building, including its time as the punch card workshop.

    Wish Shorpy would get on some of those pictures…

  4. This is a great Georgetown story that’s been long under the radar. We ran a short feature on Hollerith’s early life back in March–check it out at http://www.georgetowner.com/articles/2010/mar/10/birth-computer-georgetown/

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