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. It was that same year, 1934, that General Motors and REO each debuted a semi-automatic transmission, 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 finally offered automatic transmissions using queues from Banker’s design in 1940 on Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs, marking the first mass produced automatic transmission vehicles.
Banker laid claim to a number of innovative feats, such as 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.