Eugene Ford, (center)  celebrating his 80th birthday in 1946, with Mr. & Mrs. Thomas J. Watson, Sr.Eugene Ford, (center) celebrating his 80th birthday in 1946, with Mr. & Mrs. Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

The following is excerpted from the September 13, 1948, edition of Business Machines, IBM's employee publication.


Eugene A. Ford was an IBM senior development engineer at the company's Endicott Laboratory in New York and an internationally known inventor. He was associated with IBM and its predecessor companies since 1904. A pioneer in the development of many IBM machines, Ford worked with Herman Hollerith, director of the United States Census, in developing machines for the 1890 census, and was responsible for the invention and development of many IBM products since then.

Born on May 26, 1866, in Kosciusko, Miss., Ford entered the University of Mississippi at Oxford at the age of 16. He later went to Texas and worked in a surveying party as chain man surveying the county lines.

Ford later attended business college in Louisville, Ky., and subsequently became associated with a law firm. Meanwhile, he developed a visible printing typewriter and shortly thereafter, went to New York in 1897 to obtain the backing necessary to promote the Ford Typewriter Company. While arranging for this backing, he called at the Taft-Pierce Company in Woonsocket, R.I., and later became associated with that organization, where he aided in the development of the key punch and later worked on the vertical sorter and the counter device, developing the horizontal sorter in 1903.

He joined the Tabulating Machine Company in 1904, and continued his work on the development of punched card accounting machines. He opened a small laboratory for the company in Oxbridge, Mass., in 1911, and three years later went to New York City as chief development engineer when the laboratory moved there [to East 30th Street in Manhattan].

[Ford subsequently developed the highly successful IBM 080 horizontal sorter, which was introduced commercially in 1925.]

In 1933, Ford went to Endicott, N.Y., where IBM had completed a new laboratory and he made it its center of operations. In Endicott he made many outstanding contributions to the development and growth of the IBM line of products in the 1940s, and during World War II carried on important research work for the U.S. government.

The entire IBM organization paid tribute to Ford at a dinner marking his 80th birthday on May 25, 1946, at the IBM Homestead in Endicott. On that occasion, IBM's president, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., pointed out that Ford had always looked ahead to see better things for the future.

He said: "Mr. Ford has continued in that spirit through his many years with the company. Mr. Ford was the first man I met in the development end of our business and he gave me great encouragement and assistance. I want to pay him my tribute and the tribute of all my associates in IBM, especially that of the factory personnel, who have been kept employed at good wages as a result of the company's research and development work. I have never worked with anyone with more satisfaction and pleasure than I have worked with Mr. Ford, and I want to pay him a personal tribute as a friend."

Eugene Ford died two years later, on September 4, 1948.