The Info List - Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

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THOMAS JOHN WATSON SR. (February 17, 1874 – June 19, 1956) was an American businessman . He served as the chairman and CEO of International Business
Machines (IBM) He oversaw the company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956. Watson developed IBM's management style and corporate culture from John Henry Patterson\'s training at NCR . He turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization, based largely on punched card tabulating machines . A leading self-made industrialist, he was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world's greatest salesman when he died in 1956.


* 1 Early life and career * 2 NCR * 3 Head of IBM
* 4 Personal * 5 Famous attribution * 6 Famous motto * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Further reading * 10 External links


Thomas J. Watson was born in Campbell, New York, the fifth child and only son of Thomas and Jane Fulton White Watson. His four older siblings were all girls —Jennie, Effie, Loua, and Emma. His father farmed and owned a modest lumber business located near Painted Post , a few miles west of Elmira , in the Southern Tier region of New York . Thomas worked on the family farm in East Campbell, New York and attended the District School Number Five in the late 1870s. As Watson entered his teen years he attended Addison Academy In Addison, New York .

Having given up his first job—teaching—after just one day, Watson took a year's course in accounting and business at the Miller School of Commerce in Elmira. He left the school in 1891, taking a job at $6 a week as bookkeeper for Clarence Risley's Market in Painted Post. One year later he joined a traveling salesman, George Cornwell, peddling organs and pianos around the farms for William Bronson's local hardware store, Watson's first sales job. When Cornwell left, Watson continued alone, earning $10 per week. After two years of this life, he realized he would be earning $70 per week if he were on a commission. His indignation on making this discovery was such that he quit and moved from his familiar surroundings to the relative metropolis of Buffalo .

Watson then spent a very brief period selling sewing machines for Wheeler and Wilcox. According to Tom Watson, Jr. , in his autobiography:

One day my dad went into a roadside saloon to celebrate a sale and had too much to drink. When the bar closed, he found that his entire rig—horse, buggy, and samples—had been stolen. Wheeler and Wilcox fired him and dunned him for the lost property. Word got around, of course, and it took Dad more than a year to find another steady job.

Watson would later enforce strict rules at IBM
against alcohol consumption, even off the job. According to Tom Jr.:

This anecdote never made it into IBM
lore, which is too bad, because it would have helped explain Father to the tens of thousands of people who had to follow his rules.

Watson's next job was peddling shares of the Buffalo Building and Loan Company for a huckster named C. B. Barron, a showman renowned for his disreputable conduct, which Watson, as a lifelong Methodist
, deplored. Barron absconded with the commission and the loan funds. Next Watson opened a butcher shop in Buffalo, which soon failed, leaving Watson with no money, no investment, and no job.


Watson had a newly acquired NCR cash register in his butcher shop, for which he had to arrange transfer of the installment payments to the new owner of the butcher shop. On visiting NCR, he met John J. Range and asked him for a job. Determined to join the company, he repeatedly called on Range until, after a number of abortive attempts, he finally was hired in November, 1896, as sales apprentice to Range.

Led by John Patterson , NCR was then one of the leading selling organizations, and John J. Range, its Buffalo branch manager, became almost a father figure for Watson and was a model for his sales and management style. Certainly in later years, in a 1952 interview, he claimed he learned more from Range than anyone else. But at first, he was a poor salesman, until Range took him personally in hand. Then he became the most successful salesman in the East, earning $100 per week.

Four years later, NCR assigned Watson to run the struggling NCR agency in Rochester, New York . As an agent, he got 35% commission and reported directly to Hugh Chalmers, the second-in-command at NCR. In four years Watson made Rochester effectively an NCR monopoly by using the technique of knocking the main competitor, Hallwood, out of business, sometimes resorting to sabotage of the competitor's machines. As a reward he was called to the NCR head office in Dayton, Ohio .

In 1912, the company was found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust
Act . Patterson, Watson, and 26 other NCR executives and managers were convicted for illegal anti-competitive sales practices and were sentenced to one year of imprisonment. Their convictions were unpopular with the public because of the efforts of Patterson and Watson to help those affected by the Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
floods of 1913 , but efforts to have them pardoned by President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
were unsuccessful. However, their convictions were overturned on appeal in 1915 on the grounds that important defense evidence should have been admitted.


Charles Ranlett Flint who had engineered the amalgamation (via stock acquisition) forming the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) found it difficult to manage the five companies. He hired Watson as general manager on May 1, 1914 when the five companies had about 1,300 employees. Eleven months later he was made president when court cases relating to his time at NCR were resolved. Within four years revenues had been doubled to $9 million. In 1924, he renamed CTR to International Business
Machines. Watson built IBM
into such a dominant company that the federal government filed a civil antitrust suit against it in 1952. IBM
owned and leased to its customers more than 90 percent of all tabulating machines in the United States
United States
at the time. When Watson died in 1956, IBM's revenues were $897 million, and the company had 72,500 employees.

Throughout his life, Watson maintained a deep interest in international relations, from both a diplomatic and a business perspective. He was known as President Roosevelt\'s unofficial ambassador in New York and often entertained foreign statesmen. In 1937, he was elected president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and at that year's biennial congress in Berlin stated the conference keynote to be "World Peace Through World Trade". That phrase became the slogan of both the ICC and IBM. Watson's merger of diplomacy and business was not always lauded. During the 1930s, IBM's German subsidiary was its most profitable foreign operation, and a 2001 book by Edwin Black, _ IBM
and the Holocaust _, argues that Watson's pursuit of profit led him to personally approve and spearhead IBM's strategic technological relationship with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
. In particular, critics point to the coveted Order of the German Eagle medal that Watson received at the Berlin ICC meeting in 1937, as evidence that he was being honored for the help that IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag
(Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH) and its punch card machines provided the Nazi
regime, particularly in the tabulation of census data (i.e. location of Jews). Another study, argues that Watson believed, perhaps naively, that the medal was in recognition of his years of labor on behalf of global commerce and international peace. Within a year of the Berlin congress though, where Watson's hopes had run high, he found himself strongly protesting the German policy toward the Jews. Because of his strong feelings about the issue, Watson wanted to return his German citation shortly after receiving it. When Secretary of State Hull advised him against that course of action, he gave up the idea until the spring of 1940. Then Hull refused advice, and Watson sent the medal back in June 1940. Dehomag's management disapproved of Watson's action and considered separating from IBM. This occurred when Germany declared war on the United States
United States
in December 1941, and the German shareholders took custody of the Dehomag
operation. But during World War II
World War II
, IBM subsidiaries in occupied Europe never stopped delivery of punch cards to Dehomag, and documents uncovered show that senior executives at IBM world headquarters in New York took great pains to maintain legal authority over Dehomag's operations and assets through the personal intervention of IBM
managers in neutral Switzerland
, directed via personal communications and private letters.

During this same period, IBM
became more deeply involved in the war effort for the U.S., focusing on producing large quantities of data processing equipment for the military and experimenting with analog computers . Watson, Sr. also developed the "1% doctrine" for war profits which mandated that IBM
receive no more than 1% profit from the sales of military equipment to U.S. Government. Watson was one of the few CEOs to develop such a policy.

In 1941, Watson received the third highest salary and compensation package in the U.S., $517,221, on which he paid 69% in tax.

Watson had a personal interest in the progress of the war. His eldest son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., joined the United States
United States
Army Air Corps where he became a bomber pilot. He was soon hand-picked to become the assistant and personal pilot for General Follet Bradley, who was in charge of all Lend-Lease equipment supplied to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
from the United States. Watson, Sr.'s youngest son, Arthur K. Watson , also joined the military during the conflict.

Watson worked with local leaders to create a college in the Binghamton
area, where IBM
was founded and had major plants. In 1946, IBM
provided land and funding for Triple Cities College, an extension of Syracuse University . Later it became known as Harpur College, and eventually evolved into Binghamton
University . Its School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is named the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The IBM
plant in the neighboring city of Endicott has since downsized drastically, however.

After World War II, Watson began work to further the extent of IBM's influence abroad and in 1949, he created the IBM
World Trade Corporation in order to oversee IBM's foreign business.

On May 8, 1956 Watson retired and his oldest son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr assumed the position of CEO. He died on June 19, 1956 in Manhattan, New York City . He was interred in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York .


Watson married Jeanette Kittredge, from a prominent Dayton, Ohio railroad family, on April 17, 1913. They had two sons and two daughters.

* Thomas Watson, Jr. succeeded his father as IBM
chairman and later served as ambassador to the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
under Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
* Jeanette Watson Irwin married businessman John N. Irwin II , later ambassador to France * Helen Watson Buckner became an important philanthropist in New York City * Arthur K. Watson served as president of IBM
World Trade Corporation and later, as ambassador to France

As a Democrat (after his criminal indictment by the Taft Administration), Watson was an ardent supporter of Roosevelt. He was one of the most prominent businessmen in the Democratic Party. He was considered Roosevelt's strongest supporter in the business community. The gravesite of Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

In 1936 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that IBM, together with Remington Rand, should cease its practice of requiring its customers to buy their punch cards from it alone. The ruling made little difference because IBM
was the only effective supplier to the market, and profits continued undiminished.

Watson served as a powerful trustee of Columbia University
Columbia University
from June 6, 1933 until his death. He engineered the selection of Dwight D. Eisenhower as its president and played the central role in convincing Eisenhower to become president of the university. Additionally, he served as a trustee of Lafayette College
Lafayette College
and is the namesake of Watson Hall, a campus residence hall.

In 1939, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Commercial Science from Oglethorpe University .

In the 1940s, Watson was on the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America and served for a time as international Scout commissioner. E. Urner Goodman recounts that the elderly Watson attended an international Scout commissioners' meeting in Switzerland , where the IBM
founder asked not to be put on a pedestal. Before the conference was over, Goodman relates, Watson "... sat by that campfire, in Scout uniform, 'chewing the fat' like the rest of the boys". He received the Silver Buffalo Award in 1944. His son, Thomas Jr., later served as National president of the Boy Scouts of America from 1964 to 1968.

Watson was chairman of the Elmira College centennial committee in 1955 and donated Watson Hall, primarily a music and mathematics academic building.

He was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business
Hall of Fame in 1990.


Although Watson is well known for his alleged 1943 statement, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," there is scant evidence he said it. Author Kevin Maney tried to find the origin of the quote, but has been unable to locate any speeches or documents of Watson's that contain this, nor are the words present in any contemporary articles about IBM. One of the very first attributions may be found in _The Experts Speak_, a book written by Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky in 1984, however Cerf and Navasky just quote from a book written by Morgan and Langford, _Facts and Fallacies_. Another early article source (May 15, 1985) is a column by Neil Morgan, a San Diego Evening Tribune writer who wrote: "Forrest Shumway, chairman of The Signal Cos., doesn't make predictions. His role model is Tom Watson, then IBM
chairman, who said in 1958: 'I think there is a world market for about five computers.'" The earliest known citation on the Internet is from 1986 on Usenet
in the signature of a poster from Convex Computer Corporation as "'I think there is a world market for about five computers' —Remark attributed to Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board of International Business
Machines), 1943". All these early quotes are questioned by Eric Weiss, an editor of the _Annals of the History of Computing_ in ACS letters in 1985.

There are documented versions of similar quotes by other people in the early history of the computer. In 1946 Sir Charles Darwin (grandson of the famous naturalist), head of Britain's NPL (National Physical Laboratory), where research into computers was taking place, wrote:

it is very possible that ... one machine would suffice to solve all the problems that are demanded of it from the whole country.

In 1985 the story was discussed on Usenet
(in net.misc), without Watson's name being attached. The original discussion has not survived, but an explanation has; it attributes a very similar quote to the Cambridge mathematician Professor Douglas Hartree
Douglas Hartree
, around 1951:

I went to see Professor Douglas Hartree, who had built the first differential analyzers in England and had more experience in using these very specialized computers than anyone else. He told me that, in his opinion, all the calculations that would ever be needed in this country could be done on the three digital computers which were then being built—one in Cambridge, one in Teddington , and one in Manchester. No one else, he said, would ever need machines of their own, or would be able to afford to buy them.

Howard H. Aiken made a similar statement in 1952:

Originally one thought that if there were a half dozen large computers in this country, hidden away in research laboratories, this would take care of all requirements we had throughout the country.

The story already had been described as a myth in 1973; the _Economist_ quoted a Mr. Maney as "revealing that Watson never made his oft-quoted prediction that there was 'a world market for maybe five computers.'"

Since the attribution typically is used to demonstrate the fallacy of predictions, if Watson had made such a prediction in 1943, then, as Gordon Bell pointed out in his ACM 50 years celebration keynote, it would have held true for some ten years.

archives of Frequently Asked Questions notes an inquiry about whether he said in the 1950s that he foresaw a market potential for only five electronic computers. The document says no, but quotes his son and then IBM
President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., at the annual IBM
stockholders meeting, April 28, 1953, as speaking about the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine, which it identifies as "the company's first production computer designed for scientific calculations". He said that " IBM
had developed a paper plan for such a machine and took this paper plan across the country to some 20 concerns that we thought could use such a machine. I would like to tell you that the machine rents for between $12,000 and $18,000 a month, so it was not the type of thing that could be sold from place to place. But, as a result of our trip, on which we expected to get orders for five machines, we came home with orders for 18." Watson, Jr., later gave a slightly different version of the story in his autobiography, where he said the initial market sampling indicated 11 firm takers and 10 more prospective orders.


"THINK " - Watson began using "THINK" to motivate, or inspire, staff while at NCR and continued to use it at CTR. International Business Machines's first U.S. trademark was for the name "THINK" filed as a U.S. trademark on June 6, 1935, with the description "periodical publications". This trademark was filed fourteen years before the company filed for a U.S. trademark on the name IBM. A biographical article in 1940 noted that "This word is on the most conspicuous wall of every room in every IBM
building. Each employee carries a THINK notebook in which to record inspirations. The company stationery, matches, scratch pads all bear the inscription, THINK. A monthly magazine called 'Think' is distributed to the employees." THINK remains a part of IBM's corporate culture; it was the inspiration behind naming IBM's successful line of notebook computers , IBM ThinkPad
. In 2007, IBM
Mid America Employees Federal Credit Union changed its name to Think Mutual Bank .


* Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship * Thomas J. Watson Fellowship * Thomas J. Watson Research Center * Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science


* ^ _A_ _B_ " Thomas J. Watson Sr. Is Dead. I.B.M. Board Chairman Was 82". _ New York Times
New York Times
_. June 20, 1956. * ^ "Early Ambitions". IBM. Retrieved January 28, 2012. * ^ Belden (1962) p.105-106 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ "Founding IBM" at the Wayback Machine (archived October 3, 2006) * ^ Rodgers, William (1969) THINK, Stein and Day, p.18 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ Maney, Kevin (2003). _The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM_. John Wiley and Sons. * ^ William E. Krattinger (November 2000). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: District School Number Five". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation . Retrieved June 14, 2009. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Watson Jr., Thomas J.; Petre, Peter (1990). _Father, Son & Co.: My Life at IBM
and Beyond_. Bantam Books. * ^ NCR Corporation#Expansion * ^ " IBM
Archives: 1910s". IBM. Retrieved January 5, 2013. * ^ " IBM
Archives: 1956". IBM. Retrieved September 8, 2009. * ^ Ridgeway, George L. (1938). _Merchants of Peace: Twenty Years of Business
Diplomacy Through the International Chamber of Commerce 1919-1938_. Columbia University
Columbia University
Press. * ^ Belden, Thomas; Belden, Marva (1962). _The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson_. Little, Brown and Company. * ^ _A_ _B_ Black, Edwin (2001). _ IBM
and the Holocaust_. Crown Publishers. * ^ Belden, Thomas and Marva (1962). _The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson_ (1st ed.). United States
United States
of America and Canada: Little, Brown and Company, Inc. p. 207. LCCN 61-8065 . * ^ " IBM
Archives: 1940s". IBM. Retrieved July 30, 2007. * ^ "Compensation and the I.R.S.: It\'s not the \'Good\' Old Days". _ New York Times
New York Times
_. Business
Day. 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2014-01-21. * ^ "The Creation of the World Trade Corporation". IBM. Retrieved January 28, 2012. * ^ "Watson Yields I.B.M. Helm at 82. Son, 42, Is Elected Chief Executive of Company". _ New York Times
New York Times
_. May 9, 1956. * ^ "Lafayette Honors Foremost Benefactors". Retrieved 2016-10-04. * ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved 2015-03-22. * ^ Goodman, E. Urner (1965). _The Building of a Life_. St. Augustine, FL: Standard Printing. * ^ "Laureates Inducted in 1990". _U.S. Business
Hall of Fame _. Junior Achievement USA . Retrieved January 28, 2012. * ^ "Authors". Doi.acm.org. doi :10.1145/2465.314899 . Retrieved 2013-06-17. * ^ Copeland, Jack (2006). _Colossus: The Secrets of Bletchley Park's Codebreaking Computers_. Oxford University Press. p.109 * ^ Brader, Mark (July 10, 1985). "Only 3 computers will be needed..." (Forum post). net.misc. Citing Lord Bowden (1970). _American Scientist_. 58: 43–53) * ^ The Language of Computers a transcript of a talk given by Lord Bowden of Chesterfield, at Brighton College of Technology. the first Richard Goodman Memorial Lecture * ^ Cohen, I. Bernard (1999). _Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer_. MIT Press. p.292 * ^ Cohen, I. Bernard (1998). _IEEE Annals of the History of Computing_ 20.3 pp. 27-33 * ^ _The Economist_, 367(8322-8326): 201 * ^ Bell, Gordon (1999). Denning, Peter J. , ed. _The Folly of Prediction_ (PDF). _Talking Back to the Machine_. New York: Copernicus. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-387-98413-1 . Retrieved June 17, 2013. * ^ " IBM
Frequently Asked Questions". p. 26 * ^ Current Biography 1940, p. 846 * ^ Dell, Deborah; Purdy, J. Gerry. "ThinkPad: A Different Shade of Blue". Sams ISBN 0-672-31756-7 ISBN 978-0672317569


* Belden, Thomas Graham; Belden, Marva Robins (1962). _The Lengthening Shadow: The Life of Thomas J. Watson_. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 332 pp. OCLC
237220 * Greulich, Peter E. (2011) _The World's Greatest Salesman: An IBM Caretaker's Perspective: Looking Back_. Austin, TX: MBI Concepts. ISBN 978-0-9833734-0-7 . The bulk of the book consists of abridged texts from Watson's _Men—Minutes—Money_. * Greulich, Peter E. (2012) _Tom Watson Sr. Essays on Leadership: Volume 1, Democracy in Business_. Austin, TX: MBI Concepts. ISBN 978-0-9833734-3-8 (electronic version only) * Greulich, Peter E. (2012) _Tom Watson Sr. Essays on Leadership: Volume 2, We Are All Assistants_. Austin, TX: MBI Concepts. ISBN 978-0-9833734-4-5 (electronic version only) * Greulich, Peter E. (2012) _Tom Watson Sr. Essays on Leadership: Volume 3, We Forgive Thoughtful Mistakes_. Austin, TX: MBI Concepts. ISBN 978-0-9833734-5-2 (electronic version only) * Maney, Kevin (2003). _The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM_. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-41463-6 * Ridgeway, George L. (1938) _Merchants of Peace: Twenty Years of Business
Diplomacy Through the International Chamber of Commerce 1919-1938_, Columbia University
Columbia University
Press, 419pp. There is a 1959 revised edition. * Rodgers, William H. (1969) _THINK: A Biography of the Watsons and IBM_. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0-8128-1226-8 * Sobel, Robert (2000). _Thomas Watson, Sr.: IBM
and the Computer Revolution_. Washington: BeardBooks. ISBN 978-1-893122-82-6 * Tedlow, Richard S. (2003). _The Watson Dynasty: The Fiery Reign and Troubled Legacy of IBM's Founding Father and Son_. New York: HarperBusiness. ISBN 978-0-06-001405-6 * Watson, Thomas J. (1934) . _Men—Minutes—Money: A Collection of Excerpts from Talks and Messages Delivered and Written at Various Times_. IBM. OCLC
391485 . * Watson, Thomas J. (1948). _World Peace through the United Nations_. Newcomen Society. p. 24. * Watson, Thomas J. (1949). _Human Relations_. IBM. p. 654. * Watson, Thomas J. (1954). _"As a Man Thinks ...": Thomas J. Watson, the Man and His Philosophy of Life as Expressed in His Editorials_. IBM. OCLC
2478365 . * Watson, Thomas J., Jr.; Petre, Peter (2000) . _Father, Son & Co.: My Life at IBM
and Beyond_. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-38083-5 . * Wilson, John S. (1959). _Scouting Round the World_. Blandford Press. pp. 186–272. OCLC