Tabulating Equipment -- The Bureau of the Census to Remington Rand

The Bureau of the Census to Remington Rand

A collection of tabulating machines in the collections of mathematics, Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History

In 1902 the Census Office became a permanent U.S. government agency, the Bureau of the Census. Simon N. D. North, the Director of the Bureau from 1903, believed that renting tabulating machines from Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company was too expensive. North established a machine shop staffed by engineers and mechanics to develop alternate systems. These machines were used in the census of population in 1910, 1920, and 1930. Tabulating equipment from the later period survives at NMAH.

James Powers, one of the first inventors hired by North, left to establish his own business in 1911. Although no machines of the Powers Accounting Machine Company survive in the Smithsonian collections, parts from them are represented. The company went bankrupt in 1920, but development of mechanical card punch equipment along the lines Powers envisioned continued. Remington Rand acquired Powers when it formed in 1927, and made punched card accounting machines into the 1950s. These were used not only in business and government but by organizations such as labor unions.