Indianapolis salesman Howard W. Sams worked at Goodyear, General Battery, and P. R. Mallory Company. At Mallory, he handled sales literature, got involved with technical instructions, and developed the Radio Service Encyclopedia in 1937 and the MYE Technical Journal in 1942.

Sams started his Indianapolis-based publishing company in 1946 when he was unable to convince his employer, the P. R. Mallory Company that technical documentation would be a lucrative field. The firm grew with the rise of electronic and computer technology. Its first success was the electronic parts catalog Photofact. Used by repair technicians and hobbyists, Photofact provided standardized information through detailed photographs and schematic diagrams that took apart and analyzed new technologies.

Within four years the company had annual sales of $1 million. In 1953, Sams began producing books on electronics and by the early 1960s was publishing computer books. During this time, Sams also was growing by acquisition, purchasing the Indianapolis-based Bobbs-Merrill Company in 1958.

In 1967, Howard Sams sold the company to New York-based International Telephone and Telegraph. It grew to have over 650 employees and included seven companies by the time that Macmillan Publishing purchased Sams from ITT in 1985. Three years later Macmillan became part of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell’s empire. Maxwell reduced the number of divisions in the company to Photfact, Computer Books, and Catalog Publications. During the late 1980s, annual sales were more than $30 million. Computer Books was separated from Maxwell and became Macmillan Computer Publishing. Maxwell put the remaining assets and divisions of Howard W. Sams up for sale in August 1989.

In February 1990, Sams was taken private in a leveraged buyout by two top Sams executives, Richard Hauser and Damon Davis. Hauser served as president, and Davis was chairman. With venture-capital investors, the pair bought the Sams intellectual property rights from Maxwell. They repaid the venture capitalists and began a new book publishing division, Prompt Publications, in 1992, and a sports publisher, Master’s Press, in 1993. Located on the city’s west side, the firm employed some 160 persons in the early 1990s.

Bell Atlantic acquired Howard W. Sams and Company in 1995. Under Bell Atlantic’s ownership, Davis became the chief operating officer, and a Bell executive, Dan Gomez, became chairman. Hauser retired in 1998.

Two years after Hauser’s retirement, in 2000, Bell Atlantic sold Howard W. Sams to eCatalogs, a California startup. The new California company, however, was only interested in the catalog division of the company. Davis purchased Photofact and Prompt Publications two months after the sale of the entire company to eCatalogs. He renamed the company SAMS Technical Publishing and established Trackside Publications to produce customized books for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other automotive racing facilities.

Davis sold Prompt Publications to Thomson Learning (later to become part of Cengage, an educational content and technology company aimed at K-12, higher education, and libraries) in 2001. That same day, Premier Press, a computer book company that operated under the Random House publishing umbrella, merged with SAMS Technical Publishing. Thomson Learning acquired Premier Press the following year.

In 2003, Davis sold SAMS Technical Publishing to AGS Capital, an Indianapolis capital-venture consortium. SAMS continues to publish Photofact repair schematics and Trackside Publications. In 2004, SAMS launched Indy-Tech Publishing, which focuses on books for consumers related to electronics and automotive technology. The “Savvy” series of publications are produced under this imprint.

Revised July 2021

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