October 18, 1934 – Patent filed for automatic transmission

Oscar H. Banker, an Armenian American inventor, filed for a patent for the automatic transmission on this day in 1934. Banker laid claim to a number of innovative feats including receiving patents for power steering and the primary controls of the first Sikorsky helicopter, which would lead to the first production helicopter in 1941. While the development of automatic transmissions had already been occurring within the auto industry, most notably General Motors and REO’s development of a semi-automatic transmission that debuted on some cars in 1934, Banker’s invention was more durable and safer to use. It still took him a number of years to get the automobile industry to understand and accept his invention, which utilized hydraulic force and no need for a manual clutch mechanism. His efforts can be seen with the introduction of the Hydra-Matic transmission on GM cars in 1939 as an option for 1940 model years Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. This was the first mass produced automatic transmission. Other notable patents received by Banker included a band saw sharpener, which was his first invention, a gun type inoculator, a relief valve for high pressure 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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