Schilt Adding Machine

This is one of the oldest surviving key-driven adding machines. Victor Schilt, a little-known clock maker from the Swiss canton of Solothurn, sent it for exhibition at the first of the great world’s fairs, the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition held in London in 1851. The entry received an honorable mention, and Schilt reportedly received an order for 100 machines, which he declined to fill.
The front, top and mechanism of the machine are steel, and the case is wood. The plate and zeroing knobs on the top and the nine digit keys across the front are made of brass. The machine adds numbers up to 299. Only one-digit numbers may be entered. The result is visible in a window in the plate. The plate is marked: V. Schilt (/) Mechaniker in Solothurn.
The Schilt machine closely resembles an adding machine patented in France in 1844 and sold by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué and his son Charles. Schilt had worked for the elder Schwilgué before building his machine. Schilt’s machine was part of the collection of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company, and was given to the Smithsonian by the successor to that firm, Victor Comptometer Corporation.
J. A. V. Turck, Origin of Modern Calculating Machines, Chicago: Western Society of Engineers, 1921.
Denis Roegel, “An Early (1844) Key-Driven Adding Machine,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 30 #1 (January-March 2008), pp. 59-65.
Currently not on view
Object Name
adding machine
date made
Schilt, Victor
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 11.9 cm x 26 cm x 14.5 cm; 4 11/16 in x 10 1/4 in x 5 23/32 in
place made
Schweiz: Solothurn, Solothurn
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Adding Machines
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Adding Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Victor Comptometer Corporation
Additional Media

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