Gather round, loyal workers and company envoys! Doff your caps, freshen your snuff and pat down your side parts for a rousing singalong from Songs of the IBM, a 1937 book of songs that sing the praises of our illustrious employer: The EVER ONWARD I.B.M.
Thanks to a fantastic(ally weird) find from Ars Technica today, we get a glimpse of what company culture was like at the cusp of the modern age. The 1937 edition of the IBM’s songbook solicited “your vocal approval by hearty cooperation in our song-fests at our conventions and fellowship gatherings.” The book is surprisingly long, with 100 songs ranging from odes to “I.B.M., all glorious,” to ditties devoted to actual employees — beginning with the higher ups and then trickling down to lower-level managers. There’s even an interlude to “All our IBM system service girls.”
But the name you hear the most? Thomas Watson, IBM's CEO and, presumably, the person who encouraged the yearly tradition of the songbook. In different moments, Watson is described as:
- Head and soul of our splendid I.B.M.
- So big and so square and so true
- Our leader fine, the greatest in the land
- Our President and most beloved man
- Great organiser and a friend so true
- That "man of men," our sterling president
Here are a few other great moments in the book:
Our products are known in every zone,
Our reputation sparkles like a gem!
We've fought our way through -- and new Fields we're sure to conquer too
For the EVER ONWARD I.B.M.
Another little ditty sung to the tune of Marching Through Georgia:
I.B.M. leads all the world with wonderful machines,
Its great corps of engineers command our high esteem;
Alpha-bet-i-cally we will bring them on the scene;
"Ever look forward" is their motto.
Yes: It's pretty damn easy to find weirdness in the book. But Ars' Lee Hutchinson explains that, in fact, it's not all that weird when placed in historical context: "the majority of the songs came out of the Great Depression era, and employees lucky enough to be steadfastly employed by a company like IBM often were really that grateful." It's also worth pointing out, as many commenters have, that this was just a few years before IBM would knowingly enable the Holocaust with its punch-card technology.