Rapid Calculator

This pinwheel calculating machine has nine levers for setting numbers, ten wheels for recording numbers of revolutions of the large drum, and 18 wheels for recording results. The large handle for operating the machine is on the right at the top. The carriage has two zeroing handles. Lifting a movable bar zeros the levers. Depressing a knob at the front releases the carriage. The machine has a wooden base and a black metal cover that fits over it. The base has four rubber feet.
A mark on the front of the machine and on the front of the cover reads: RAPID (/) CALCULATOR. Another mark on the front of the machine reads: MADE IN (/) USA. The serial number, stamped on metal piece on right side and on pencil on wooden piece on inside of cover, is 3805. A mark on the front of the carriage reads: THE RAPID CALCULATOR CO. (/) PHILADELPHIA PENNA. A mark on the back of the case reads: PATENTED (/) THE RAPID CALCULATOR CO. MFRD. (/) PHILADELPHIA PENNA.
Otto P. Schuman (1891–1969) came to the United States from Germany in 1909 and founded the Rapid Calculator Company in 1919. He applied for U.S. patents on calculating machines in 1919 (1,508,257 - granted September 9, 1924 ) and 1924 (1,566,978 - granted December 22, 1925). The clearing mechanism for the entry levers patented in his second patent is used in this machine, hence the date of about 1925.
Many calculating machines were used in insurance companies. This machine was used by actuary John V. Hanna (1892–1982) of the United Life and Accident Insurance Company of Concord, New Hampshire. Hanna joined the company as its actuary in 1921, and became president in 1935. He became chairman of the board in 1955 and retired in 1957. The machine was given to the Smithsonian by Hanna’s son.
Accession file.
Currently not on view
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1925
Rapid Calculator Company
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
wood (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 13.8 cm x 37.7 cm x 13.8 cm; 5 7/16 in x 14 13/16 in x 5 7/16 in
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


"I have the same Rapid Calculator that my father used at Pet Milk Co.. In St. Louis Mo. I believe he used it from the 1940's until his death in 1970. He worked In the Purchasing Department at Pet. The number on the right side is 9411. Children are still fascinated by it and we let them use it. Do you know where we can get a manual to explain how to use it?Sincerely,Donna Carriere Bosenbecker"
"John Wolff’s web museum includes scans of several manuals for calculating machines. Although none of these is for this particular model, looking at manuals for Marchant, Facit, and Original Odhner machines should be of use."
"My grandfather was Otto P Schuman, and I am proud to say that 95 years after he forunded the Rapid Calculator Company, We are still in business as O.P. Schuman and Sons. Fortunately, we still have a few of the machines that his company produced from the earlyyears and they are always a topic of conversation when people see them. Thanks for making this site available."

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