Imagine IBM as a cult in which employees sing songs of praise to the company’s founder, TJ Watson, and other executives, and proclaim their love and loyalty to the company, much like hymns of prayer offered in church.
It’s not a dystopian-society movie using IBM as a backdrop. Such scenes apparently actually happened, and happened routinely, during the company’s first 37 years, according to a corporate songbook called “Songs of The IBM,” published in 1937 and just unearthed by Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson.
The intro of the book explains:
“For thirty-seven years, the gatherings and conventions of our IBM workers have expressed in happy songs the fine spirit of loyal cooperation and good fellowship which has promoted the signal success of our great IBM Corporation in its truly International Service for the betterment of business and benefit to mankind.”
Some of the songs include …
“Ever Onward: The IBM Rally song” with lyrics like:
Thomas Watson is our inspiration, Head and soul of our splendid I.B.M. We are pledged to him in every nation, Our President and most beloved man.
Odes to various executives, like “TO CLEMENT EHRET, MANAGER, MARKET RESEARCH DEPARTMENT, I. B. M.”
In the glorious I. B. M. we are blest with mighty men, They are doing things for us and we all know Clement Ehret’s one of them, and we make it known again, By his Research he will make our business grow.
Or, how about this one? “Selling I.B.M.” written for the tune “Singing in the Rain”
Selling IBM, we’re selling I. B. M., What a glorious feeling, the world is our friend, We’re Watson’s great crew, we’re loyal and true; We’re proud of our job and we never feel blue. We sell our whole line, we’re there every time, To chase away gloom with our products so fine, We’re always in trim, we work with a vim, We’re selling, just selling, I. B. M.
1937 was a few years after the Great Depression began (in 1929) and a few years before World War II would begin. Franklyn Roosevelt was president and Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union.
A person would get a job and work there his or her whole life. That is just as hard to picture today as a room full of adults singing joyful odes to the head of the research department.
Here’s the full song book:
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