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Elmer Ambrose Sperry papers
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Elmer Ambrose Sperry papers

Accession 1893

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807

Finding aid prepared by Michael H. Nash, 1989

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-02-05T13:37-0500

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Elmer Ambrose Sperry papers (Accession 1893), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807


Descriptive Summary

Title: Elmer Ambrose Sperry papers
Dates: 1876-1931
Accession Number: 1893
Creator: Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930
Extent: 27 linear feet
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Elmer Sperry (1860-1930) was one of America’s electric pioneers. He founded the Sperry Gyroscope Company in order to develop, manufacture, and market marine gyrostabilizing devices. The papers document Sperry's research and development work and entrepreneurial activities.

Administrative Information


Gift of Elmer Sperry III


Biographical Note

Elmer A. Sperry was born on October 12, 1860, in Cortland, N.Y. He attended the local elementary schools and then enrolled in Cornell University. At Cornell, he developed an interest in electrical engineering and began working with a group of Syracuse industrialists in order to construct an arc lighting system. By 1882 Sperry was recognized as being one of America's electrical pioneers.

In 1883 Sperry moved to Chicago where he established the Electric Light, Motor, and Car Brake Company. He, however, found that he could notcompete with the more established Edision and Brush Electric companies so he began experimenting with electric coal-mining equipment. In l886 he founded the Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. During these years Sperry also developed an electric street car. After selling his patents to General Electric, he went to work for the company as a consultant.

In 1901 Sperry became associated with a young patent examiner, Clifton Townsend, and the two men worked together to develop an electrolytic process to manufacture white lead. Sperry and Townsend opened a production plant in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which was sold to Elon Hooker's Development and Funding Company.

In 1907 Sperry began to experiment with the gyroscope. Three years later, he founded the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, N.Y., in order to develop, manufacture, and market marine gyrostabilizing devices. Working closely with the Navy, he developed the gyrocompass, ship stabilizer, and high-intensity search light. During the First World War, the Sperry Gyroscope Company became a major defense contractor, and Elmer Sperry sat on the Naval Consulting Board. After the war, Sperry Gyroscope moved into aeronautics as it developed airplane stabilizers, gyrostabilized bombsights, and the aerial torpedo. Elmer Sperry died on June l6, l930.


Scope and Content

The Elmer Sperry papers document Sperry's research and development work and entrepreneurial activities. The Chicago-​Cleveland records describe his efforts to develop arc lighting systems, stationary power, electric mining machinery, and electric traction technology. Included are correspondence files and financial records of the Electric Light, Motor, and Car Brake and the Electric Mining Machine companies. Electro-​chemistry files include correspondence and reports documenting the development of the white lead process and the business negotiations that took place between the Sperry and Hooker Chemical companies. Also included is correspondence with William F. Dutton of the American Can Company, Leo Baekeland, and with Ernest LeMaire of the Hooker Electrochemical Company.

Gyroscope company records document the development and marketing of the marine and aeronautical instruments, including the gyrocompass, ship stabililzer, high-intensity search light, airplane stabilizer, fire control systems, automatic bombsights, and the aerial torpedo. These records describe Sperry's close working relationship with the U.S. Navy and his collaboration with Admiral David W. Taylor and Commander William McEntree. Records also describe Sperry's activities on the Naval Consulting Board. Sales and marketing records contain correspondence with representatives of the British, French, Japanese, and Russian navies.


Access Points

Aeronautical instruments industry.
Air compass.
Air distance recorder.
Air-speed indicators.
American Locomotive Company.
American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
American Tin Plate Company.
Anshutz Company.
Automatic control.
Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd.
Castner Electrolytic Company.
Chemical Reduction Company.
Coal mines and mining.
Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation.
Curtiss, Glenn Hammond, 1878-1930.
Defense contracts.
Diesel locomotives.
Drift indicator.
Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931.
Electric batteries.
Electric current regulators.
Electric engineering.
Electric lighting, Arc.
Electric networks.
Electrolytic cells.
Feedback control systems.
Ford, Edsel, 1893-1943.
Ford, Henry, 1863-1947.
Fricke, Otto.
Fuse and Wire Company.
Gabriel, George.
General Electric Company.
Goldschmidt Detinning Company.
Goodman Manufacturing Company.
Goodman family.
Goodman, Herbert E. (Herbert Edward), 1862-1917.
Guided bombs.
Hooker, Albert H. (Albert Huntington), 1865-1936.
Hooker, Elon Huntington, 1869-1938.
Hughes, Thomas Parke.
Japan--Foreign relations--20th Century.
Keller, Helen, 1880-1968.
Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958.
Marine diesel motors.
Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953.
Morse Dry Dock and Repair Company.
National Electric Light Association.
Naval art and science.
Naval research.
Navigation (Aeronautics).
New York Central Railroad Company.
North American Aviation, inc.
Sperry Electric Company.
Sperry Electric Illuminating Company.
Sperry family.
Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930.
Sperry, Lawrence B. (Lawrence Burst), 1892-1924.
Sperry, Stephen D. (Stephen Decatur).
Sperry, Zula G. (Zula Goodman), d. 1930.
Taylor, D. W. (David Watson), 1864-1940.
Th. Goldschmidt and Company.
Thomson-Houston Electric Company.
United States Metal Recovery Company.
United States. Navy.
Washburn, Frank S. (Frank Sherman), 1860-1922.
Whitley Exerciser Company.
World Sunday School Association.
YMCA of the USA.

Series Descriptions and Inventory

I. Personal, 1860-1929
1 linear foot
Scope and Content
This series contains genealogical and biographical information on Sperry and his family. Included is a diary of Stephen Decatur Sperry (Elmer's father), genealogical charts tracing the family roots to England and the reign of Charles I, and letters from Elmer Sperry describing his early life in Cortland and experiences at Cornell University. This series also includes correspondence of Zula Goodman Sperry (Elmer's wife) and her brother. Herbert Goodman. describing the role the Goodman family played in Elmer Sperry's various enterprises.
This series includes Sperry's correspondence with Thomas Edison (a colleague on the Naval Advisory Board) and with Helen Keller. There is also information on Sperry's personal finances and condolences which were written to him after the death of his son, Lawrence.
1 Sperry family genealogy
1 General correspondence
1 Papers RE: Cortland, NY; (2 folders)
1 Cortland Normal School (2 folders), 1916-1926
1 Cortland Associations
1 Baptist Church, 1917-1924
1 Diary of Stephen Decateur Sperry and letter of James to Elmer Ambrose Sperry' mother, 1867, 1859 July 18
1 Zula Goodman's childhood letters
1 Zula Goodman Sperry's personal correspondence
1 Elmer Ambrose Sperry to Herbert Goodman
1 Poetry (probably one of Sperry's children)
1 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Jr., 1935-1937
1 Correspondence RE: Elmer Ambrose Sperry' mother, 1926-1928
1 Helen Willett
1 Mrs. C.G. Lunt
2 Correspondence with Thomas and Mrs. Edison
2 Helen Keller
2 Personal finances
2 Philanthropies
2 Condolences (Lawrence Sperry)
2 Zula Goodman Sperry obituary
2 Henry Ambrose Sperry, 1807-1829
3 Goodman Family Personal Papers
II. General Correspondence, 1919-1930
0.5 linear feet
Scope and Content
This series contains Elmer Sperry's correspondence with a number of prominent scientists, politicians and business people. Letters to Herbert Hoover and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., outline Sperry's political, economic, and social world views. Correspondence with Albert A. Michelson (University of Chicago), David Eugene Smith (Columbia University) and Elihu Thomson (Thomson-​Houston Company) develops Sperry's ideas about the relationship between science and technology. Also included is a letter to Mussolini.
4 Chronological File (2 folders), 1919-1930
4 American Society of Mechanical Engineers
4 Brown Telephone Relay
4 Captain G. de Cacquery
4 Committee of Ten
4 Doran, Charles
4 Fritz Medal
4 Gleason, Edward
4 Hoover, Herbert
4 Jewett, Frank
5 Millikan, R. A.
5 Mussolini, Benito
5 National Research Council
5 Professional Activities Clubs and Societies
5 Rockefeller, John Dr., Jr.
5 Sauvaire, Jourdan
5 Smith, David Eugene
5 Thompson, Elihu
5 Wilkins, F. H.
5 World Sunday School Association
III. Chicago-Cleveland, 1890-1910
5 linear feet
Scope and Content
This series describes Sperry's inventions and entrepeneurial activities in the two decades (1880-1900) when he was considered one of America's electrical pioneers. It documents his efforts to develop arc lighting systems, stationary power, mining machinery, and electric traction. The records describe the operation of the Sperry Electric Light, Motor, and Car Brake Company, which was founded in 1883 to set up electric power stations and manufacture component parts. These are fragmentary, but they do contain copies of Sperry's agreements with his financial backers and correspondence that traces his efforts to patent his inventions and secure customers.
Records documenting Sperry's associations with the Electric Mining Machine Company and Independent Electric Company are far more complete. These files, which include incoming correspondence, letter books, sales books, and account books, trace Sperry's efforts to develop electric mine cars and undercuttting equipment. Sperry's letter books contain copies of a large number of reports he sent to the engineers at General Electric for analysis and comment. These letters show that Sperry was able to draw on the expertise of many of GE's young engineers who were, during the 1890s, graduating from engineering schools in relatively large numbers. These young engineers helped orient Sperry to the early twentieth-​century world of professional engineering.
The Chicago-​Cleveland records document Sperry's relationship with the Link-Belt Company, which rented him space to manufacture his electric mine cars. The records also show that Link-Belt provided his company with both technical support and legal advice when he became embroiled in a number of patent infringement suits during the mid-1890s.
The correspondence of the Goodman Manufacturing Company traces Sperry's continued involvement with coal-mining machine industry through the 1920s. These records show that Sperry continued to help make policy decisions and served as a consulting engineer long after he left Chicago.
During the late 1890s, Sperry's primary interest was in street railways. His correspondence from this period describes his effort to develop and patent his electric governor and car brake. Correspondence with GE engineers show that Sperry's street car employed a mode of power transmission similar to that in his mine locomotive. The records describe Sperry's efforts to market his street cars as well as his increasing commitment to experimentation and testing. Other records from Sperry's Chicago-​Cleveland period include those generated by the Sperry Engineering, National Battery, and Whitley Exerciser Companies.
Taken together, these records suggest that from his earliest days as an electrical engineer, Sperry was experimenting with automatic feedback control. His arc lighting and dynamo patents describe two major improvements: a mechanical governor to automatically maintain uniform output, and an electromagnetic control mechanism to adjust current output to reflect load variations. As Thomas Hughes has pointed out, the operation of Sperry's centrifugal governor was very similar to the conventional feedback devices used in steam engines and anticipated his experiments with gyroscopic feedback control.
The papers clearly demonstrate that by the mid-1880s, Sperry was recognized as an important electrical pioneer. He was a founding member of the National Electric Light Association, which was attempting to regulate the high-power lines developed to transmit electricity economically over long distances.
6 Sperry Electric Light, Motor, and Car Brake Company, 1883
6 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. General Correspondence, 1893-1896
6 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Sale to Thomson-Huston Electric Company
6 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Report on Affairs and Conditions, 1891
6 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Patents
6 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Service Reports
7 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. File on gas engine patents
7 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Patent litigation, 1894-1896
7 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company Records. Bills and cancelled checks
7 Sperry Engineering Company, 1897-1898
7 Sperry Electric Railway Company, 1893-1895; 2 folders
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Correspondence, 1895-1896
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Correspondence and Patents, George Selden, 1895-1896
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Patents, 1892
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Electric Governor Patents
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Accident claims, 1895
8 Sperry Electric Railway Company. Correspondence RE: Horseless Carriage, 1895-1897
8 Independent Electric Company, 1894; 2 folders
9 Independent Electric Company, 1895
9 Fuse and Wire Company
9 National Battery Company, 1903-1905
9 Link-Belt Machine Company (photocopies)
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Proposal to Establish Machine Department at Link-Belt, 1895
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Chain Breast Patent Suit, 1895-1896
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Cheseborough Patents, 1892
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Electric Mining Machine Department, 1903, 1905
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Correspondence, 1901-1910, 1916-1930
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Correspondence RE: Mine locomotive, 1903-1911; 2 folders
9 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Correspondence RE: Locomotive patents, 1906-1903
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. “Brief History of the Longwall Machines”; 4 folders
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. “Evolution of Mining Machinery”
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Gathering locomotive papers & correspondence, 1900-1908
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Shirtwall Locomotive Design, 1910
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Correspondence RE: marketing coal mining machinery in England, 1920
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Correspondence RE: Harrison Coal Puncher, 1891-1905
11 Goodman Manufacturing Company. Whitley Exerciser Company, 1896-1905
11 Chicago Enterprises various companies correspondence with A. D. Dana, 1900-1915
11 Chicago Enterprises Incorporation Papers various companies
11 Cleveland Enterprises Thomson-Huston Expense Account, 1892-1895
11 Cleveland Enterprises, General Correspondence, 1893-1896
12 Edison Pioneers, correspondence and news clippings
131 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. Letter book, March 9, 1889 - June 9, 1889
132 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. Letter book, November 19, 1889-September 14, 1891
133 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. Letter book, September 15, 1891-February 23, 1893
134 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. Letter book, July 13, 1893-November 11, 1895
135 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company. Supply Dept. & General. Letter book, January 6, 1891-September 5, 1891
131 Sperry Electric Street Railway Company. Letter book, 1889-1893
132 Sperry Electric Street Railway Company. Letter book, 1895-1896
133 Sperry Electric Street Railway Company. Letter book, 1895-1897
141 Sperry Electric Motor & Car Brake Company. Letter book, 1892-1893
142 Elmer A. Sperry Company. Letter book, 1889-1890
143 Elmer A. Sperry Company Day Book, 1892
144 Personal Letter Book, 1892-1894
151 Sperry Electric Street Railway Company cashbook, 1891
152 Sperry Electric Street Railway Company cashbook, 1891
153 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company journal, 1890-1891
154 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company journal, 1891-1892
155 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company timebook & payroll, 1893-1894
156 Elmer A. Sperry Company Trial Balance, 1896
157 Elmer A. Sperry Company cashbook, 1889-1890
158 Elmer A. Sperry Company salesbook & ledger, 1890
159 Sperry Electric Mining Machine Company salesbook & payroll, 1889-1890
1-8 Salesbooks, 1891-1896
9-12 Trial Balance, 1891
13-16 Ledger, 1891
17 Scrapbook (miscellaneous clippings)
18 Railroad scrapbook
IV. Electro-chemistry, 1896-1921
1 linear foot
Scope and Content
This series summarizes Sperry's experimental work and entrepreneurial interests in electrochemistr​y. Correspondence with Clinton P. Townsend describes the work of the Townsend laboratory and documents the business relationship that Sperry and Townsend established. The letters and technical reports trace Townsend's efforts to develop the caustic soda and white lead processes. Correspondence with E. H. Hooker of the Hooker Electrochemical Company describes the business negotiations between Sperry and Hooker, and Hooker's decision to help finance the development of the Townsend-Sperry process. The records include Sperry's and Townsend's correspondence with Leo Baekeland and Ernest LeMaire, who were assigned to supervise the construction and operation of the Niagara white lead plant for the Hooker Company.
The records document Sperry's and Townsend's attempts to develop an economical detinning process. Correspondence with William F. Dutton of the American Can Company describes operations of the detinning laboratory, as well as the business relationship that developed between Sperry and Dutton. The papers also describe the patent suit with Th. Goldschmidt & Company that eventually forced Sperry and Dutton to abandon their project.
A. General Correspondence, 1896-1910
2 folders (Box 16)
B. Subject Correspondence
16 Anaconda Lead Company
16 Bakeland, Leo
16 Betts, Anson
16 Carbone Lamp Patent - Hecht, Pfeiffer & Co.
16 Chemical Reduction Company
16 Cobb, E. B.
16 Dana, Arthur G.
16 Donnelley, Thomas E. (Lakeside Press)
16 Dutton, W. F. (Am. Tin Plate Co.) correspondence with Elmer Sperry and Clinton Townsend, and Taylor, J. R.
16 Gabriel, George
16 Gibbs, William T.
16 Harrington, Ralph
17 Heyworth, Lawrence
17 Hooker, E. M., 1904-1914; 4 folders
17 Johnson, Woolsey
17 LeMaire, E. B. (correspondence with Elmer Sperry, W. F. Dutton and Clinton Townsend)
17 Lezensky, George
17 Lynch & Dorer
17 Mauran, Max (Castner Electrolytic Company)
17 Moody, H. R.
17 Ramage, H. A.
17 Rodgers Iron Company
18 Sarco Fuel Savings & Engineering Co.
18 Solvay Process Company
18 Stine, Marcus
18 Swan, Alden
18 Townsend, Clinton; 6 folders
18 Townsend-Hooker correspondence
18 Tucker, Samuel
18 United States Metal Recovery Co.
18 Washburn, Frank (correspondence with Elmer Sperry and Herbert Goodman)
18 Wedge, Utley
18 Whampelmeir, T. J.
18 Wyley, J. H. (U.S. Chemical Dept.)
C. Patent Records, 1882-1933
Scope and Content
The Elmer Sperry papers contain a complete record of his published patents. The collection also includes his laboratory notebooks from 1882-1929. These notebooks can be used to trace the evolution of Elmer Sperry's approach to arc lighting, street railways, electrochemistr​y, gyroscopic technology, internal combustion engines, and the technological problems he encountered with each of these projects.
Box Folder
19 1 Townsend & White lead patents includes some correspondence with E. Sperry
19 2 Report on the Townsend Electrolytical & White Lead Process includes correspondence with F. Pinkham, 1917-1918
19 3 Patent correspondence - general
19 4 Correspondence RE patent searches, 1917-1921
19 5 Agreements and Patent assignments
19 6 Patent applications
19 7 Patent infringements
19 8 Patent interferences
D. Laboratory Notebooks
5 volumes (Box 20)
Scope and Content
Sperry was very articulate in his notebooks and explored a variety of technological and scientific issues in them. It is evident that he drew on the work of a number of academic physicists and mathematicians and tried to apply their insights to experimental problems. Sperry's notebooks contain a large number of sketches that reflect an appreciation of modern science. However, the diaries also show that in many ways Sperry was a nineteenth-​century artist-engineer rather than a modern scientist whose insights are based on mathematical models.
V. Sperry Gyroscope Company, Inc., 1910-1929
5 linear feet
Scope and Content
The records in Series IV of the Elmer Sperry papers were, for the most part, generated by the Sperry Gyroscope Company. They include Elmer Sperry's business and technical correspondence that describes the development and marketing of the company's aeronautical and marine instruments. Sperry's research files trace the history of the gyroscope beginning with its invention by Leon Foucault in 1854. His correspondence describes the state of gyroscopic technology and the patent situation as it existed in 1910.
Also contained in Series IV are some fragmentary administrative records. There is a copy of the minutes of the first Board of Directors meeting (June 2, 1910), reports to the stockholders (1917-1918), tax, and financial records.
After the war, the Sperry Gyroscope Company began a systematic effort to market its products abroad. The records documenting these sales initiatives contain correspondence with representatives of the English, French, Russian, and Japanese navies. Sperry's correspondence with Admiral Hideo Takedo, who represented the Japanese Navy as well as Mitsubishi Zōsen Kaisha Ltd., is of particular interest. These letters trace the process by which Mitsubishi became a licensee for Sperry products and Sperry Gyroscope gained access to the Japanese Navy. The Sperry-Takedo letters have both personal and business dimensions. The two men shared common interests and value systems based on a faith in technological progress and an appreciation of hard work. These correspondence files show that this friendship led Sperry to appreciate Japanese culture. He made several trips to Japan at the end of his life and in 1929 organized the World Engineering Conference in Tokyo.
A. Administrative Records
21 Gyroscope Prior Art - Easements
21 Patent records
21 Patent litigation
21 Correspondence with patent office, 1920
22 Extracts of special Board of Directors Meetings, 1 15/15
22 Sperry Gyroscope Ltd., Board of Directors Mtgs, 1915-1922
22 Annual Reports to stockholders, 1915-1917
22 Miscellaneous stockholder records, 1917-1920
22 Administrative Committee Meeting, September 10, 1918
22 Post 1918 organization charts
22 Price Waterhouse report, 1919
22 Financial statement & balance sheets, 1918-1919
22 Taxes, 1919
22 Financing the Company during World War I
22 Agreement with Lawrence Sperry
22 Contracts between Elmer Sperry & Sperry Gyroscope Co.
22 North American Aviation merger
22 Patent Department records
22 Post-World War I planning
22 Sperry Gyroscope Ltd. correspondence, administrative memoranda & financial records
23 Sperry Development Company
23 Foreign trade
23 U.S. Government correspondence with various executive departments
23 Dept. of Commerce - Herbert Hoover, 1928
23 Airmail service
23 National Bureau of Standards
23 U.S. Navy
23 Legal Dept. - patents
23 Foreign correspondence - patents
23 Post-World War I transition in patent situation - alien property custodian
23 Patents & licenses - France
23 Sperry Gyroscope - its commercial uses & results, 1911
23 General correspondence, 1908-1924
23 Aeroclub of America
23 Bassett, Preston
23 Curtiss, Glenn
24 Doran, Charles
24 Howard, Henry
24 Gilmore, R. E.
24 Lea, Robert
24 Norden, L. L.
24 Elmer Sperry - sales trip to Europe, 1911, 1914
24 Personnel; 3 folders
B. General Correspondence
25 General correspondence; 2 folders
25 Commander W. E. Van Auken
25 Commander R. D. Gatewood
25 Commander William Mc Entee
25 Captain David W. Taylor
25 U.S.S. Henderson
25 U.S.S. Langley
25 U.S.S. Mayflower
25 U.S.S. Osborne
25 U.S.S. Worden
25 Submarines
25 Aircraft carriers
26 Sperry Gyroscope Ltd.
26 Foreign sales - general
26 England
26 France
26 Italy
26 Japan
26 Russia
26 Westinghouse Electric Company
26 Patents correspondence Chessin, Forbes, Norden, Schlick
26 Paper delivered by E. Sperry Society of Naval Architects Meeting “Gyrostabilizers in Service”, 1917
26 Frahm anti-rolling tanks, 1910-1922
26 Gyrostabilizer - engine blueprints & photographs
26 Yacht stabilizer Widgeon
26 Correspondence with U.S. Shipping Board
26 Clippings; 2 folders
26 Carl Norden “Stabilizing Larger Vessels”
26 Marine Gyropilot; 2 folders
26 Torpedo gyro
C. Research and Development
1. Gyrocompass
27 Elmer Ambrose Sperry's early experiments
27 Gyrocompass development, general correspondence, 1907-1927; 4 folders
27 U.S. Navy contract for innovation & production, 1911-1912
27 U.S. Navy contract for installation on the Delaware
27 Trial USS South Dakota, 1916
27 Correspondence Sperry Gyroscope Ltd. - Louis Brennan
27 Martnenssen Compass
27 Correspondence & reports with contractors
27 Blueprints
27 Aeroplane gyrocompass Charles Kettering correspondence, 1916-1920
27 Mining applications
28 Correspondence with F. Creagh-Osborne of the British Admiralty
28 Foreign patents
28 German & Austrian patents
28 Brown Infringement Suit (Great Britain)
28 Patent litigation Anschutz Company
28 Rawlings-Henderson interference
28 Trade catalog
2. High Intensity Search Light
28 General correspondence, 1916-1930; 2 folders
28 Technical reports A. A. Michelson correspondence speed of light tests, 1916-1920
28 Sperry-Beck Infringement
28 Lindberg-Beacon (Chicago)
28 Applications - motion picture project
3. Aerial torpedo
29 Torpedo tube mine
29 Directive bomb
29 Prism Fire Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, 1914-1921
4. Bomb sights
29 Automatic machine gun sight for plance
29 Cretien and Aldis gun sights
29 Serversky bomb sight
29 Visual stabilization
5. Airplane instruments
29 Correspondence with London office
29 Correspondence with War and Navy Departments
6. Aeronautical gyrocompass (Box 30)
7. Airplane stabilizer
30 General
30 Stanley Beach correspondence
30 Sperry Gyroscope Ltd.
30 Patents
30 Airplane launching equipment, 1923-1927
8. Automatic airplane pilot
30 British patents
30 Airplane remote control
30 French tests (Lawrence Sperry letters)
9. Gyroscopic inclinometer (Box 30)
10. Airplane voltage standardization (Box 30)
11. Bothezat helicopter (Box 30)
12. Flying boat drift indicator (Box 30)
13. Zepplins (Box 30)
14. Correspondence with U.S. Coast Guard (Box 30)
15. Miscellany (Box 30)
16. Lawrence Sperry
Scope and Content
The Lawrence Sperry correspondence describes the development of the aerial torpedo and the involvement of the U.S. Navy's Air Service with the project. The records show that during the early 1920s Elmer Sperry signed over all right to the drift indicator, air distace recorder, airspeed indicator, and air compass to his son's company.
31 Financial agreement between Lawrence Sperry and Gyroscope Company
31 Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Co. - aircraft instruments, 1917-1924
31 Aerial torpedo; 2 folders
31 Automatic pilot
31 Correspondence with Elmer Ambrose Sperry and others RE London & Paris air shows, 1915
31 Tribune Affair, October, 1915
31 Records of Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Co. (photocopies from Hofstra University collection)
31 Zula Goodman Sperry letters to Elmer Ambrose Sperry and Herbert Goodman RE Lawrence Sperry
31 Press clippings and obituaries
17. Fire Control
32 General
32 Commander W. R. Auken
32 Lt. Logan Cresap
32 Commander William R. Furlogn
32 Captain F. C. Martin
32 William Overstreet
32 Admiral David Taylor
32 Artificial horizons
32 Battle tracers
32 Prism target practice
32 Correspondence with War Dept., Bureau of Ordnance & Engineering
32 Fire control patents - Hannibal Ford
18. Miscellaneous applications
33 Constant speed fan - correspondence with War Dept. - Signal Corps.
33 Gyrocompass for tanks
33 Dynograph car experiments
33 Rail fissure detector
33 Northern Pacific Railway correspondence
33 Golf bag
33 Submarine speed indicator and range finder
33 Motion pictures
33 Electric shears
33 Gyroscope track record correspondence with L. C. Carter & R. C. Colley
33 Villiers odograph
33 Wheelbarrow & automobile stabilizers
D. Naval Consulting Board
1. General
33 General correspondence with the Navy Dept., 1917-1920
33 Correspondence, 1915-1928
33 Minutes and reports
34 General project file, 1915-1927
34 Correspondence with Armstrong Seadrome, Inc.
34 Elia Net or Wireless Bouy, 1919-1926
34 Otto Fricke, ship detector or fog guide
34 Infra radiation signaling
34 Dunkirk fighter plane
34 Long range heavy artillery with mobility equipment equal to light helicopter projects
34 Travel expenses
34 Clippings
34 U.S. Shipping Board
34 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
2. Elmber Ambrose Sperry
35 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Annapolis, lecture to midshipmen RE gyrocompass, 1916-1927, 1912
35 Japan - General correspondence
35 Correspondence with Admiral Takada, 1919-1930
35 Japan - Business & patents
35 Politics Sino-Japanese relations and Japanese Exclusion Act
35 World Engineering conference, 1926-1930; 4 folders
35 YMCA in China. C. H. Robinson
35 Japan - Speeches, articles & clippings
35 Condolences - Japanese Society of NY
3. Scrapbooks (Boxes 36-37)
VI. Diesel Engines - Research and Development, 1908-1929
1 linear foot
Scope and Content
Elmer Sperry's files on the compound diesel engine and the electric transmission include a number of blueprints and patent diagrams describing his diesel engine and proposed electronic transmission. During the 1920s Sperry collaborated closely with H. C. Snow, an engineer with the Velie Motors Corporation of Moline, Illinois, and the collection includes a complete file of their letters. These records show that in spite of their efforts the diesel project was both a technological and financial failure. Sperry could not develop a working model nor could he raise the capital required to finance research and development in this area. For a while Ford Motor Company, Standard Oil, Baldwin Locomotive Works, and the Illinois Central Railroad expressed interest in Sperry's work but, when research and development did not proceed as rapidly as expected, they quickly withdrew their support.
A. General
38 General correspondence; 2 folders
38 Aviation - correspondence with Pratt & Whitney National Advisory Board for Aeronautics
38 Aviation - British Air Ministry
38 Competitors prices - folders
39 Technical reports
39 Adams. J. H. RE liquid fuels
39 Aluminum pistons
39 Betts Machine Company
39 Cordwin, S. P. - correspondence
39 Crankless steam engine
39 C&G Copper Company
39 General Electric Company
39 Lyons-Atlas Company
39 Scandinavia correspondence
39 Patent files
39 Thayer, Benjamin - agreement
B. Automotive Diesel
40 General correspondence.
40 Notes & sketches
40 Accelerator, Sharp, REB correspondence, 1925-1929
40 Compound gas engine - notes & indicator cards; 2 folders
40 Electric transmissions, 1908-1927
40 Electric transmission patent matters
40 Electric clutch patent matters
40 Hydraulic transmission, William Davis correspondence, 1924-1926
40 Ford, Henry & Edsel - correspondence
40 Ford Motor Company - correspondence
40 Kettering, Charles - correspondence
40 Sleeve valve - correspondence with Continental Motor Co. (Great Britain)
41 Correspondence with H. C. Snow of the Velie Motor Company, (both retained copies and original letters which were acquired from Snow's son), 1925-1930
41 H. C. Snow - drawings and photographs
41 News clippings
C. Diesel Locomotives
42 General Correspondence
42 American Locomotive Company, 1922-1926
42 Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1922-1923
42 Commonwealth Steel, 1924-1926
42 Illinois Central Railroad, 1921-1923
42 New York CentralRailroad, 1924-1926
42 Addresses, essays & papers
42 Marine Diesel - general correspondence
42 Marine Diesel - technical correspondence includes files & drawings of HVID Company
D. Diesel Marine Engines
43 Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co.
43 Brush-Sulzer Bros.
43 Cornell Steamboat Co.
43 Curtis, Charles G.
43 Donnelly, William T.
43 Foreign correspondence
43 Morse Dry Dock Co.
43 Newport News Shipbuilding Co.
43 Schneider & Co.
43 Standard Oil of NJ
43 Standard Oil of NY
43 U.S. Shipping Board
43 Vickers Price Engine
43 Sketches & technical notes
43 Sperry Gyroscope Ltd. (magnetic clutch)
E. Diesel Engines
44 Correspondence with U.S. Navy - Air Service & Tank Divisions
44 Adjustable pitch propellers
44 Artificial horizons
44 Automatic hydrogen indicator
44 Automatic shoal water alarm system
44 Automobile stabilizer
44 Azmuth recording instrument
44 Brennan gyroscope car
44 Camera stabilizer
VII. Laboratory notebooks, diaries, and appointment calendars, 1880-1933
Scope and Content
The Elmer Sperry papers contain a complete record of his published patents and his laboratory notebooks. These notebooks, which do have some gaps, can be used to trace the evolution of Elmer Sperry's approach to arc lighting, street railways, electrochemistry, gyroscopic technology, internal combustion engines, and the technological problems he encountered with each of these projects. Sperry was very articulate in his diaries and explored a variety of technological and scientific issues in them. It is evident that he drew on the work of a number of academic physicists and mathematicians and tried to apply their insights to experimental problems. Sperry's diaries contain a large number of sketches which reflect an appreciation of modern science. However, the diaries also show that in many ways Sperry was a nineteenth-century artist-engineer rather than a modern scientist whose insights are based on mathematical models.
45 Laboratory Notebooks, 1882-1891; Volumes 8-27
48 Laboratory Notebooks, 1913-1927; Volumes 55-65
46 Laboratory Notebooks, 1891-1900; Volumes 28-41
47 Laboratory Notebooks, 1900-1912; Volumes 45-54
49 Diaries, 1894-1915
50 Diaries, 1916-1930
51 Appointment Calendars, 1918-1920
52 Appointment Calendars, 1921-1925
53 Appointment Calendars, 1926-1930
54 Elmer Ambrose Sperry Published Patents, 1882-1933
VIII. Smithsonian Exhibit - Oral Histories
55 Smithsonian Institution Exhibit on Elmer Ambrose Sperry includes remarks of Preston Bassett on exhibit opening, May, 1960
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “Active Type of Stabilization Gyro” paper read at 20th General Meeting of Society of Naval Architects, 1912
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “Utilization of Power Stations for Electrochemical & Electrothermal Processes During Periods of Low Load”
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “Recent Progress with the Active Type of Gyro-Stabilizer for Ships,” from the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers, Vol. 23, 1915
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “Recognition of the Engineer & American Engineering Societies” Paper #440, March 4, 1929
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “The Contribution of the Gryoscopeto Safety” paper presented before the 2nd Pan American Congress, Dec. 27, 1915-Jan. 8, 1916
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “The Electrically-Driven Gyroscope and Its Uses”
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “The Commercial Gyroscopic Compass” from the Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects & Marine Engineers, Vol 24, 1916
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, Lecture at the U.S. Naval Academy. Post Graduate Dept., March 16, 1915
56 Elmer Ambrose Sperry, “Recent Progress with Active Gyrostabilization for Ships”
56 News clippings
56 Interview with Robert Lea, May 1966; three cassettes with transcript
56 Interview with Preston Bassett, September 1960
56 WKRT Cortland, NY “Life and Achievements of Elmer Sperry”, Oct. 12, 1955
57-61 Thomas Hughes research notes & correspondence
62-63 Thomas Hughes rough drafts & galleys