Registering Accountant

This is a very early example of the printing full-keyboard adding machine invented by William Seward Burroughs. It was manufactured in St. Louis by the American Arithmometer Company. This firm later moved to Detroit and changed its name to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company.
The machine has a ferrous metal case, painted black, with maple sides and front. A burled maple veneer covers part of the sides and front. The portion of the case under the keyboard is covered with green cloth. The nine columns of black plastic keys have nine keys apiece. Extended springs serve as decimal markers between columns. Another key stem is at the middle of the base of the keyboard and a lever is to the left. The mechanism is largely ferrous metal, with some brass parts. It includes a dashpot, which is inside the machine. Numbers added are registered on wheels at the front which are not visible. The metal operating crank is on the right. The printing mechanism at the back of the machine has nine star-shaped type wheels that are linked to the register at the front. Numbers print from a black cloth ribbon inside the case onto a paper tape at the back. The output is not visible to the operator. Once the handle and cover are removed, reassembly requires that the handle be disassembled.
The machine is marked on a metal tag screwed to the front: REGISTERING ACCOUNTANT (/) AMERICAN ARITHMOMETER (/) ST. LOUIS, U.S.A. It is also marked there: No. 54. It is also marked there: PATENTED (/) AUG.21.1888 (/) Jan.15.1889. The machine was lent to the Smithsonian by the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in 1916, and more recently donated by Unisys Corporation.
P. A. Kidwell, "The Adding Machine Fraternity at St. Louis: Creating a Center of Invention, 1880-1920," Annals of the History of Computing, 2000, 22: pp. 4-21.
Currently not on view
Object Name
adding machine
date made
American Arithmometer Company
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
paper (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 30 cm x 32 cm x 49 cm; 11 13/16 in x 12 19/32 in x 19 9/32 in
place made
United States: Missouri, St. Louis
ID Number
maker number
catalog number
accession 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 Unisys Corporation

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