Adding Machines
Full-Keyboard – Burroughs

An image displaying several adding machines from the Division of Medicine and Science.

William Seward Burroughs (ca 1855-1898), the son of a machinist in upstate New York, spent some years working as a clerk before moving to St. Louis and taking up invention. From 1884, he attracted investors to aid in his development of a printing adding machine. By 1890, he had patented a machine and sent it out on trial. By the mid-1890s, the American Arithmometer Company of St. Louis was actively selling the Burroughs Registering Accountant, as they called the machine. As early as 1898 it established a factory in Britain to produce for the European market.

In 1904, American Arithmometer Company moved to Detroit. The next year, it took the name Burroughs Adding Machine Company. In the course of the early 20th century, the company made and sold a wide range of adding machines. It vigorously defended its own patent rights, and purchased those of such rival companies as Pike, Universal, and Moon-Hopkins. Burroughs also hired inventors who successfully modified its products over the years. The Patent Department maintained a collection of models, both of Burroughs inventions and of rival machines. A handful of Burroughs machines also were exhibited at the Smithsonian.

In the 1950s, Burroughs abandoned manufacture of full keyboard adding machines in favor of ten-key devices built on patents of the British Summit adding machine. Burroughs Corporation inventors devoted attention to electronic computers, but did not attempt to design electronic calculators. In 1963 it gave many of the models and machines from its Patent Department collection to the Smithsonian. The company merged with Sperry Rand Corporation in 1986 to form Unisys Corporation.