IBM's Anniversary Celebrations: 1914 to 2014
Was 2011 the Correct Year to Celebrate IBM's Centennial?
IBM celebrated its centennial in 2011. Almost all IBMers that had been around since 1989 scratched their heads because it had only been twenty-two years since the corporation had celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. I mean, we were there . . . and so was Sam.
Many of us dug into our memorabilia to determine if our memories had failed us, but, alas, our memories were right. IBM had traditionally marked 1914 as the date of its founding—the year Thomas J. Watson Sr. joined the company.
That included the twenty-fifth (1939), the fiftieth (1964), and the seventy-fifth (1989) anniversaries and several other events of note shown below.
So, why the rush?
It would seem that in the midst of the bad news that Virginia M. Rometty had to share in 2014 with her shareholders—dropping the second, earnings-per-share roadmap, she could have used some good news to celebrate. Is it just that her predecessor wanted to use it as his swan song?
There were many dates that could have been used as an IBM anniversary date:
- 1888 was the founding of the Tabulating Machine Company
- 1911 was the date of incorporation of C-T-R
- 1914 was the year Thomas J. Watson Sr. was hired by the C-T-R board of directors
- 1924 was when C-T-R was renamed International Business Machines (IBM)
So, from a "legalistic" perspective celebrating IBM's Centennial in 2011 was one possible date—based on the incorporation of the C-T-R Company. But, from a "traditional and cultural" perspective, 1914 was the founding date that was traditionally used by three previous chief executives: Watson Sr., Watson Jr., and John F. Akers; and it was a tradition respected by all the other chief executives until Sam.
Here's the list:
Here's the list:
A Powerful Anniversary Tradition Built Upon Memorable Events
1946: 32 Years from 1914 (30th Anniversary delayed)
This is the letter that Tom Watson Sr. wrote asking that the thirty-year anniversary celebration (1944) be delayed until after the end of World War II:
"It makes me very happy to know that my friends in the community and my associate employees of IBM wish to honor me in this way, and I deeply appreciate the spirit behind your desire to do something special on this occasion. On account of the war, and being ever mindful of the sacrifices by the men and women in the armed forces, I do not feel that our thoughts or efforts should be diverted by anything unusual at this time. I am sure that all of you appreciate how I feel about this, and that you will agree with me that nothing should be considered along this line for the duration.
"After victory, Mrs. Watson and I will be happy to join with you in mutual recognition of the 30 years that we have been together as employees of our company and as citizens of the community."
Thomas J. Watson Sr., The Binghamton Press, May 8, 1944