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Anecdotes: Herman Hollerith's Historic Hilltop Home

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129983D
Original Publication Date: 1997-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 2 page(s) / 17K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Eric Weiss: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

[Editor's Note: This anecdote is from Annals department editor Eric Weiss, who, intrigued by the sale of the original Hollerith house and grounds in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., dug out the story that appears here.] An advertisement in The Wall Street Journal for Oct. 13, 1995, followed by a later note in the Nov. 3 issue, shows that the pioneers of computing are not forgotten. The advertisement, by Pardoe Real Estate, was headed ";Washington, D.C. Corporate Residence For Computer Firm"; and said that the home of Herman Hollerith, inventor of the punch card tabulating system whose firm, after merger, became IBM, was for sale for the first time. It showed a picture of a four-story house described as a ";turn of the century mansion in historic Georgetown,"; which is readily accessible to Capitol Hill, the central business district, and Dulles and National airports that was perfect for large-scale entertaining. A later note in the news columns of the Journal reported that the entire property consisted of two historic houses on three acres l of land, which the Hollerith family had owned for 84 years and l had just come on the market as a consequence of the death of his last heir. Hollerith was identified as the ";inventor of the keypunch.";

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Anecdotes: Herman Hollerith's Historic Hilltop Home

Eric Weiss

[Editor's Note: This anecdote is from Annals department editor Eric Weiss, who, intrigued by the sale of the original Hollerith house and grounds in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., dug out the story that appears here.]

An advertisement in The Wall Street Journal for Oct. 13, 1995, followed by a later note in the Nov. 3 issue, shows that the pioneers of computing are not forgotten. The advertisement, by Pardoe Real Estate, was headed "Washington, D.C. Corporate Residence For Computer Firm" and said that the home of Herman Hollerith, inventor of the punch card tabulating system whose firm, after merger, became IBM, was for sale for the first time. It showed a picture of a four-story house described as a "turn of the century mansion in historic Georgetown," which is readily accessible to Capitol Hill, the central business district, and Dulles and National airports that was perfect for large-scale entertaining.

A later note in the news columns of the Journal reported that the entire property consisted of two historic houses on three acres l of land, which the Hollerith family had owned for 84 years and l had just come on the market as a consequence of the death of his last heir. Hollerith was identified as the "inventor of the keypunch."

Here is the rest of the story, with some minor corrections, as put together from the complete and detailed Herman Hollerith, Forgotten Giant of Information Processing, with supplementary help from Pardoe Real Estate and Richard Hollerith, the inventor's grandson.

Hollerith bought the property in 1911 when he became a millionaire at the age of 51. Financier Charles Ranlett Flint had just bought Hollerith's 52% ownership of the Tabulating Machine Company for $1,210,500 in order to merge it with three other companies into the Computing- Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R), in which Hollerith immediately invested $100,000. Three years later, in 1914, Thomas John Watson, who had been fired from the National Cash Register Company, was hired as general manager. Until 1921, Hollerith received an annual retainer of $20,000 as consulting engineer to keep him out of the punched card machine business and to take advantage of his skills. During this time, and later, he devised several never-implemented punched-card systems for small businesses, some of which were battery- powered. In 1924, Watson changed C-T-R's name to International Business Machines (IBM).

Hollerith's reasons for buying this particular property probably included the fact that its magnificent view over the Potomac River also looked over what had been his factory, down the hill on the canal at 31st Street. (The factory is now the home of Canal Square and the Sea Catch restaurant.) When Ho...