Toy Abacus

In the 1950s, tools long used to communicate elementary ideas about counting and arithmetic moved from the classroom into the home. The numeral frame, which resembles a Russian abacus, was brought to the United States from Europe in the 1820s, and used in many classrooms to communicate basic arithmetic concepts to groups of students.
By the mid-20th century, numeral frames were sold for use by young children in the home. This brightly painted example has a wooden frame, five metal horizontal cross rods, and a metal support at the back. Each cross rod carries 10 sliding wooden beads. The toy was designed to teach elementary counting, addition, subtraction, and simple fractions. The object is marked: Royal (/) Tot (/) EDUCATIONAL (/) TOY. It also is marked: Box No. 1450. There is a cardboard box. This numeral frame was sold by a pharmacy in Sherman, N.Y., and cost $1.00.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 21.5 cm x 33.5 cm x 2.02 cm; 8 7/16 in x 13 3/16 in x 13/16 in
box: 21.8 cm x 35 cm x 2.3 cm; 8 9/16 in x 13 3/4 in x 7/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
nonaccession number
Learning Arithmetic
Arithmetic Teaching
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Learning Arithmetic
Arithmetic Teaching
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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