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 Office model for an adding machine has eight counting wheels that rotate on a common crosswise shaft. Around the edge of each wheel, the digits from 0 to 9 are printed repeatedly. Attached to each cylinder is a toothed revolving disc. The machine has a wooden case with a tin cover over the wheels. On the cover, next to each wheel, is a slip of paper labeled with the numbers from 1 to 9. To enter a number, one places one's finger at the tooth next to the digit on the appropriate paper slip, and rotates forward. The sum appears in slots in the metal cover, near the top of the machine. Each wheel has four cams linked to a weighted pawl-lever, which is responsible for carrying.
- The inventor was Reuben [sic] R. James, an Indiana native born in August, 1826. According to Census records, he was a farmer (1850, 1860) and then the proprietor of a woolen mill (1870) in Rising Sun, Indiana. He took out this patent in 1878. James and fellow Rising Sun resident Mirabeau N. Lynn took out a patent for a grain meter in 1881.
- U.S. Patent 209690, November 5, 1878.
- U.S. Patent 238122, February 22, 1881.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- James, Reuben R.
- James, Reuben R.
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center