Elmer Sperry photographs1847-1945
14.5 Linear Feet
General Physical Description
In 1883, Sperry moved to Chicago where he established the Electric Light, Motor, and Car Brake Company. He found that he could not compete with the more established Edison and Brush Electric companies, so he began experimenting with electric coal-mining equipment. In 1886 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 1907, Sperry began to experiment with the gyroscope. Three years later, he founded the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, 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. At the time of his death, Sperry owned 332 patents and had forty-eight more pending. The earliest one for a steam engine dynamo dates from 1882 and in 1930, the year of his death, he was granted four patents alone. Elmer Sperry died on June 16, 1930.
Scope and Content
The Thomas Hughes photographs used in Elmer A. Sperry biography series includes images collected by historian, Thomas Hughes, for his biography of the inventor (these were later presented to Hagley). This series contains original materials (an undated pamphlet from the Scientific Aeroplane Company) as well as copy work from other sources. There is one small sheet of original sketches by Sperry of design, mounting and control of a ship's gyrostabilizer. Unfortunately, almost all of this is marked with printer's cropping and has mechanical notes (from the printer) taped to it. Most of the images show Sperry's inventions; there is some ephemera, family photographs, employees, and views of the Sperry Company's Brooklyn drafting rooms.
The Elmer Sperry photographs series primarily include photographs of his inventions, specifically the gyrocompass, the gyroscope, searchlights, and various types indicators and other instruments, as well as photographs of diagarams, graphs and other images related to the equipment in use. There are also photographs of Sperry Company offices, employees and of Sperry and his family members, primarily his sons Lawerence Sperry (1892-1923) and Elmer A. Sperry Jr. (1894-1968).
There are four albums. One of Elmer Sperry's trip to Japan in 1921, and three related to business: The Nassau Plant, the Ford Instrument Company and Conte Di Savoia.
The Lantern slides contain slides that Elmer A. Sperry used in presentations. One presentation was an MIT lecture on Lestern Garnder (1876-1956) who founded the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences (IAS) and produced the journal "Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering" in 1916. Another presentation is about Blind Flying and the third is related to the Sperry Messenger an American single-seat biplane designed by Alfred V. Verville (1890-1970). There are glass plate negatives and small prints of the presentation on Blind Flying. The small prints were in a wooden latern slide box labeled "Elmer A. Sperry Jr." - the prints have been removed from the box, however, the box remains with the collection as Ephemera.
The Films series contains a small number of films related to family trips and there are a few films related to Sperry Company inventions.
Language of Materials
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Elmer Sperry photographs
- Laurie Rizzo
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