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

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

Submit a comment or ask a question about this object using the form below. Submissions are moderated and may receive a curator response. Please note that we cannot evaluate or appraise your personal artifacts. For other questions or general inquiries please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.