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SAGE System and Electric Typewriters

“1955 Was Greatest Year of Progress in History of Kingston,” The Kingston Daily Freeman, December 31, 1955.  Courtesy Daily Freeman

Other headlines on the same front page read “Typewriter Division of IBM Moves to New Kingston Plant,” “Thruway Completed to Nyack,” and the photo caption “Progress at Bridge.”

Letter from Fred J. Eisler to Thomas J. Watson, 1953.  Courtesy of IBM

Fred Eisler thanks Watson for choosing Kingston as the site of the IBM plant. Eisler owned the Stuyvesant Hotel and had been a manager of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, where Watson had lived with his family.

Ruzzo Bowlatorium, postcard, 1947-53.  Collection of Friends of Historic Kingston

The Bowlatorium, known as "the largest and most modern recreation center in the East," was taken over by IBM in 1954 for the manufacture of sub-assemblies for the SAGE air defense system. The new IBM plant in the Town of Ulster wouldn't accommodate workers for another year.

Boice Farm, Town of Ulster, Site Plan, n.d.  Collection of Friends of Historic Kingston

We assume that the architects for the new IBM plant marked up this aerial photograph of the Boice Farm showing where the proposed plant would be and also showing proximity to the Thruway, railroad and Route 9W. Note the drive-in theater at the lower right.

Raising the IBM letters in front of the plant’s main entrance, September 6, 1955.  Collection of John F. Matthews

Note the “I” of IBM on its side as it is hoisted up. The IBM letters were on top of the entrance to the plant until anti-Vietnam War protesters started using the plant as a backdrop for demonstrations.

Exterior view of IBM Kingston plant with “Electric Typewriters” sign, n.d.  Courtesy of IBM

Electric typewriters shared the IBM plant with the SAGE air defense system. There were 2,244 workers manufacturing typewriters in 1956.

Typewriter assembly line at the IBM Kingston plant, 1950s.  Collection of Friends of Historic Kingston

This was the final, testing, phase of the assembly.

Another Big Event for IBM Kingston, First Executive Typewriter Rolls from Assembly Line, IBM Kingston News, June 22, 1956.  Collection of John F. Matthews

The new plant was called “the first new factory in the world designed solely for the manufacture of electric typewriters.”