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 is the United States Patent Office model for a machine for adding a column of digits patented by Frank S. Baldwin, who is listed on the patent as a resident of Philadelphia. It is the second of several patents Baldwin filed relating to adding and calculating machines.
- The machine's back is roughly a half-disc, with the digits from 0 to 9 engraved across the top. A steel arrow rotates to point to any one of these digits. Rotating a brass knob returns the arrow to place. The knob is linked by gears to a small movable carriage at the base of the device. Returning the knob to its original position rotates two small register wheels. One of the wheels records the sum of the number entered and the number already set in the wheels. The other records the complement of this number. There are four sets of register wheels, linked to one another so that the machine carries, hence the machine may add numbers up to 9999.
- A committee of J. W Nystrom, John Groesbeck, and Pliney E. Chase commented favorably on this machine before the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. It received the Scott Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1874, and was produced in small numbers.
- U.S. Patent 153,522, July 28, 1874.
- Thomas A. Russo Sr., and Conrad Schure, “The Calculating Engines of Frank S. Baldwin,” Rittenhouse, 11 #3 (May 1997), pp. 93-96.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- Baldwin, Frank S.
- Baldwin, Frank S.
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center