Sanborn Collection



RECORD GROUP III, Collections 33

ACC:  Most of this material was in Archives Room before the HP Archives was established in 1988, but some material including the tapes has been transferred over the last years from Waltham.

Sanborn Company of Waltham, Mass., was a major manufacturer of medical diagnostic apparatus, 1917-1961.

4 cubic feet

4 record boxes, 3 boxes of records and 1 of tapes


Sanborn Company was founded in 1917 by Dr. Frank B. Sanborn, a retired professor of civil engineering at Tufts University who started a business producing an instrument commonly used in civil engineering–a water level recorder.  Shortly thereafter, a blood-pressure tester and metabolism tester were produced, and Sanborn Company entered the field of medical instrumentations.  In 1924, the first Sanborn electrocardiograph, a device which records the electrical impulses generated by heart action, was introduced and became the most widely known instrument Sanborn manufactured.

Sanborn entered the electronics field in 1935 with a portable, vacuum-tube, battery-operated, photographic electrocardiograph–the famous Sanborn Cardiette; and the first direct-writing instrument, the Viso-Cardiette, was introduced in 1946.  In 1949, the company entered the industrial instrument field which soon accounted for more than half of its total sales.  In the medical field, Sanborn produced several types of electrocardiographs, a monitoring oscilloscope, a blood-cell counter, photographic and direct-writing research-recording systems, operating-room and recovery-room monitoring systems, a seven-channel tape system for FM and direct recording; and a variety of associated transducers.

Sanborn Company had a history of unique traditions including a profit-sharing plan which was pioneered in 1918.  Until 1958 when its stock first went on the market, Sanborn was wholly owned by its employees.  Long-service employees are honored at luncheons and presented with pins, and the founder took a personal interest in the employees, pointing to their enthusiasm as an important part of the company’s success.  An early publication, “The Sanborn Way,” was distributed in —-.

HP acquired Sanborn on August 31, 1961, when it became HP’s largest subsidiary with approximately 900 people and a 1960 sales totaling $16,586,172, of which 11% were to foreign customers.  In November, 1963, HP announced a corporate reorganization whereby the Sanborn Company of Waltham, Mass., became a division of the parent firm.