Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Toshiba Group of Japan

Toshiba has a surprising history for an electronics company. It originated in the Meiji Era to build steam engines for ships and was once part of the Mitsui Zaibatsu. In 1875 the root company of Shibaura was founded by Tanaka Hisashige. The Mitsui zaibatsu acquired the company and expanded its operations from building steam engines only for ships to building heavy duty steam engines for whatever use required them. By the turn of the twentieth century it was also making machine tools as the Shibaura Engineering Works.

The other root of Toshiba was the Tokyo Electric Company which was formed by Mitsui in 1890 in Tokyo to manufacture light bulbs. Tokyo Electric developed a working relationship with the General Electric Company (GE). GE aquired a share of equity and provided manufacturing technology.

Mitsui merged the two companies in 1939 into the Tokyo Shibaura Elelctric Co. After World War II Mitsui was broken up and the company that was later named Toshiba became an independence company. It has maintained an affiliation with the Mitsui group. In 1978 it adopted the name Toshiba. (To be continued.)

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