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 small device has a tin case painted yellow and green on top and red around the edge. The top of the case has four wheels drawn on it, each of which has the digits from 1 to 9 drawn around the edge. The digits go clockwise for the first and third circles (marked “Cents” and “Dollars” and counterclockwise for the second and fourth circles (marked “Dimes” and “Dollars”). At the top of each circle, at the zero position, is a window that reveals a rotating disc below. The discs are rotated using thumbscrews that protrude from the back of the instrument. An arm on top of each circle points to a digit on the wheel. The discs advance when they are rotated in the direction of increasing digits and remain fixed when the arrows are moved back to zero.
- The machine is marked on the front: SALES REGISTER. It is also marked there: E.J. HOADLEY (/) MANUFACTURER OF SPECIALTIES IN CONFECTIONERY. HARTFORD, CONN, U.S.A..
- The Brooklyn City directory for the year ending May 1, 1890 lists ten men named William Lang. It seems likely that the William Lang who took out this patent was the William Lang who founded William Lang Company of Brooklyn and who patented a wide range of goods, including a speed-indicator, a curtain-pole ring, a box fastener, a watch case, coin-controlled vending apparatus, a pocket lighter and, with his son William A. Lang, a tuning-peg.
- U.S. Patent 431365, July 1, 1890. The patent indicates that a model was submitted.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Lang, William
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center