When IBM closed down the bulk of its operations in Endicott, New York in 2002, locals wisely rescued artifacts from displays that had previously only been accessible to company employees and made them available to the public. The result is a local history museum unlike any other, boasting everything from rare timekeeping machines to examples of the world’s most sophisticated computers.
Beginning with an 1890s vintage Hollerith tabulating machine used to improve the processing of U.S. census data, visitors to the museum can follow the development of computing through the 20th century all the way to IBM’s 360 series of mainframes. Although IBM’s reputation was made and maintained by its development of punch card technology, typewriters, electronic accounting machines, and advanced computers, visitors may be surprised to discover that the company made a much wider range of products, including motorized coffee grinders, and rifles, all of which are on display.
As the museum’s impressive exhibits reveal, IBM’s origin story stands at the confluence of the International Time Recording Co., Computing Scale Co., and Tabulating Machine Co. which merged in 1911 under the visionary guidance of Charles Flint. Originally called the Computing Tabulating and Recording Co. (CTR for short), the name was officially changed to IBM in 1924, and its headquarters remained in Endicott until after World War II.
Flint and IBM’s legendary president, Thomas John Watson Sr., were convinced to locate the headquarters in Endicott by George Johnson, president of the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company, who envisioned the town as the world’s first industrial park. Keeping in step with innovative business practices, Johnson and Watson were soulmates who turned Endicott into the Magic City.
While the first floor of the Endicott History and Heritage Center is dedicated to the IBM museum, the second floor features memorabilia from the Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company which at its height was making upwards of 50 million pairs of shoes per year. Johnson was a progressive businessman dedicated to “Square Deal” capitalism that made the welfare of workers a priority, and the museum pays homage to his enlightened industrial philosophy.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m