Adding MachinesStylus-Operated Adding Machines
In 1642, while he was still a teenager, the Frenchman Blaise Pascal invented one of the first machines that could add automatically. Numbers were entered by rotating wheels with a pointed rod or stylus. Carrying took place through the fall of a weight. Some fifty copies of Pascal’s machine were made in his lifetime, mainly for the cabinets of curiosity of well-to-do nobles. In the eighteenth century, similar machines were made, such as one build by Jean Lepine, clockmaker and mechanician to French King Louis XV. In Lepine’s elegant brass machine, carrying took place through the flex of a spring, not the fall of a weight.
In the second half of the 19th century, a variety of much humbler stylus-operated adding machines were patented in the United States. At least three of them went on the market. Two, based on inventions of John Groesbeck and of A. M. Stephenson, had modest sales. The third, invented by journalist Charles H. Webb and sold as the Webb adder, was a sufficient commercial success to boast distinct models, patented in 1868 and 1889.
A.M. Stephenson described a small adding machine with several dials, but only sold one that handled two digits. In the 1840s the Frenchman Didier Roth had designed an improved stylus-operated adding machine that was small and light weight, but had several dials. Roth did not sell his machines successfully, but in the early 20th century such instruments became quite common. One of the first to sell widely in the U.S. was the Calcumeter, patented by James J. Walsh of New Jersey in 1901. Similar instruments, made from metal or later plastic, would sell into the 1970s.
Other small adding machines had parallel rods or chains that moved either crosswise or from top to bottom. Some of these looked quite a bit like contemporary adders, although they had a mechanical carry.
"Adding Machines - Stylus-Operated Adding Machines" showing 1 items.
- This U.S. Patent Office model for a finger-operated adding machine has four metal wheels set flat into a wooden case with a metal top (the fifth wheel is missing). Around the top edge of each wheel are ten short pins labeled clockwise from 0 to 9. Above each wheel is a round opening in the case. The edge of this opening is also labeled clockwise from 0 to 9. The mechanism linking the wheels is out of order. The patent tag is tied to the machine. It reads: 24.990 (/) J.T. Campbell (/) Adding Mch. (/) Patented August 9, (/) 1859.
- John T. Campbell also took out patents for an "Improvement in Portable Fence," U.S. Patent 63,853, April 16, 1867; an “Improvement in Lifting-Tongs,” U.S. Patent 130,194, May 1, 1877; and a 'Revolving Cultivator," U.S. Patent 329137, October 27, 1885.
- According to U.S. Census records and a biographical account, Campbell was born in 1833. Raised near a saw mill in Parke County, Indiana, he worked variously as a carpenter, a surveyor and engineer, and a hotelkeeper. During the Civil War, he organized an infantry regiment to fight for the Northern cause. Captain Campbell was disabled by a war wound. On his return, he obtained various local and state offices. By 1880 he had moved to Indianapolis, where he worked briefly as a clerk in the Indiana State Bureau of Statistics. He then retired to Parke County.
- U.S. Patent 24990, August 9, 1859.
- A. T. Andreas, Atlas Map of Parke County, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois: by the author, 1874, p. 29.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Campbell, J. T.
- Campbell, J. T.
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center