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Sperry Gyroscope Co. historical card file

Creation: 1945-1961
Accession: 2366


The Sperry Gyroscope Company was originally organized by electrical inventor Elmer Ambrose Sperry (1860-1930) for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing his ship gyrostabilizer, gyrocompass, and high-intensity searchlight. Their card file documents over sixty years of the company's history.


  • Creation: 1945-1961



2 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Sperry Gyroscope Company was originally organized by electrical inventor Elmer Ambrose Sperry (1860-1930) for the purpose of manufacturing and marketing his ship gyrostabilizer, gyrocompass, and high-intensity searchlight. The Sperry Gyroscope Company was incorporated on April 14, 1910. It was reincorporated in New York as the Sperry Gyroscope Company, Inc., on January 21, 1929. In April 1933 it became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Sperry Corporation and was merged into it as a division in December 1947. The Sperry Corporation merged with Remington Rand, Inc., on June 30, 1955, to form the Sperry Rand Coproration. Sperry Rand was renamed the Sperry Corporation in July 1979, and in November 1986 it merged with the Burroughs Corporation to form the Unisys Corporation.

During the years between 1915 and 1925 Sperry worked closely with the United States Navy to develop airplane stabilizers, gyrostabilized bombsights, automatic fire control systems, the aerial torpedo, and a number of anti-aircraft devices.

In 1928, two years before his death, Sperry sold the company to North American Aviation, Inc., a huge aviation holding company organized by Clement M. Keys that combined a number of major aircraft manufacturers and several important airlines. It was for this reason that the company was reincorporated in 1929. North American Aviation came under the control of General Motors but was broken up under the Air Mail Act of 1934. Sperry Gyroscope and an associated firm, the Ford Instrument Company, Inc., were spun off to a new holding company, the Sperry Corporation, in April 1933, which, with the breakup of North American Aviation, became an independent company.

In the 1930s and 1940s Sperry Gyroscope worked with Stanford and MIT to develop the microwave tchnology that was necessary for modern radar systems. During the Second World War the company grew more than ten-fold as it produced computer-​controlled and stabilized bomb sights for the B-17 and B-32 bombers, automatic pilots, fire control systems, airborne radar equipment, and automated take-​off-​and-​landing systems. It soon outgrew its Brooklyn plant, and the government built a new facility at Lake Success, Long Island.

After the war Sperry began to look to the civilian market. In 1947 it acquired the New Holland Farm Machine Company. However, with the outbreak of the Cold War, Sperry continued to be primarily a military contractor. It played a major role in the development of surface-to-air missiles and nuclear submarines. The 1955 merger with Remington Rand provided Sperry with access to advanced computer technology, which it applied to the military sector. During the 1960s the company was a major contractor for the Mercury and Apollo projects, as it helped to develop the computerized command and control systems for the Atlas rocket.


Series I. Alphabetical file; Series II. Chronological file

Scope and Content

In 1945, the Sperry Gyroscope Company, inc., established a project to document the history of the company and of the gyroscope in a file of 4 x 6 cards. By the time the project was abandoned in 1961, there were about 6,000 cards in two series. There was at one time a third "secret" file for classified projects. The information in the files was abstracted from a variety of manuscript and printed sources, including company, professional and government publications. The card file documents over 60 years of the company's history.

The first and largest series is arranged alphabetically. Within the file, projects are also identified by job order (JO) number. In addition to actual projects, there is also information on individual officers and employees, changes in management organization, and other activities around the Lake Success plant. There are brief notices of famous people, such as Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post, who in some way used Sperry products or visited the plant.

The second series is a chronological file on events in the company's history and the prior development of the gyroscope from 1852 to 1961.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Material

Sperry Gyroscope records (Accession 1915), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Language of Materials


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Sperry Gyroscope Co. historical card file
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA