October 18, 1934 – Automatic transmission patented

Oscar H. Banker, an Armenian-American inventor born in 1895, filed for a patent for a new type of automatic transmission on this day in 1934. The automatic transmission wasn’t a new idea at the time, but it had hardly been perfected. General Motors and REO each debuted a semi-automatic transmission the same year, but both were found to be quite unreliable. Even though Banker’s patent, which used hydraulic force and had no need for a manual clutch mechanism, was viewed as more durable, safe and easy to use, it took years for any automaker to give his invention a shot. General Motors offered the first mass produced automatic transmission vehicles using queues from Banker’s design with the release of the 1940 Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs.

Above: Oscar Banker.
Top: 1940 Oldsmobile by Sicnag

Banker laid claim to a number of other innovative feats. He holds patents for an early power steering system and the primary controls of the first Sikorsky helicopter. The latter would lead to the first production helicopter in 1941. Other notable patents received by Banker included a bandsaw sharpener, which was his first invention, a gun type inoculator, a high pressure relief valve, and an inking mechanism for multicolor printing presses. Banker passed away in Cleveland, Ohio in 1979 at the age of 83.

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