In the second half of the 19th century, several American inventors proposed adding machines operated by moving levers, rotating discs or turning screws with the fingers. At the time, they were required to submit models of their inventions to the U.S. Patent Office. Some of these models survive in the collections shown here. At least one of them, the Lang Sales Register, apparently was manufactured.
Several of these inventors took out other patents for other inventions. The most notable was Frank S. Baldwin, who invented a pinwheel calculating machine and whose ideas were the foundation of the products of the Monroe Calculating Machine Company.
Perhaps the most successful finger-operated machines were those made by the Adding Machine Division of the American Can Company of Chicago, beginning in 1914. Even this product was not entirely successful – in 1922, the printing version of the machine was discontinued and manufacture switched to the American Adding Machine Company, also of Chicago.
"Adding Machines - Finger-Operated" showing 1 items.
- This U.S. patent model for a lever-set non-printing adding machine has wooden sides and metal covers for the back and the lower front. Four large toothed wheels are used for setting numbers, with five registering wheels in front and below these. Between each of the large wheels is a strip of metal; the digits from 0 to 9 are indicated along the edges of these strips. Each of the four right registering wheels is attached to a spur wheel with ten teeth that meshes with a large toothed wheel. Placing a finger in one of the teeth of a large wheel and rotating it forward advances the registering wheel proportionally. The number entered is visible in a row of windows at the front of the model. The four registering wheels to the left have on their left side a ring of ten equidistant pins that are used in carrying.
- The patent tag for the machine reads: 21243 (/) J. Burns (/) Addometer (/) Patented Aug 24 (/) 1858 (/) Calculator.
- On March 26, 1867, Jabez Burns of New York City took out U.S. Patent 52934 for an improved powder mixer. The model for this patent is in the Medical Sciences collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It seems likely that this is the same person who invented the addometer and the same Jabez Burns who was born in Ireland in about 1827, came to new York at age 18 in January of 1845, and worked variously as a cartman, peddler, accountant, and inventor. He had a son, also called Jabez Burns.
- Jabez Burns, "Addometer," U.S. Patent 21243, August 24, 1858.
- U.S. Census records 1850, 1860. Civil War draft regisration records, June, 1863. New York City directories.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Burns, Jabez
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center