Groesbeck's Calculating Machine

This stylus-operated non-printing flat adding machine has five cogged, linked wheels. Five windows at the bottom show sums of numbers entered. Five windows at the top show complementary digits and are used in subtraction. The outer casing of the instrument is nickel-plated brass, the mechanism is brass. The device lacks a stylus. It is marked: GROESBECK’S CALCULATING MACHINE (/) PATENTED MAR. 18 1870. It is also marked: ZIEGLER & McCURDY (/) PHILAPA.CINN.O.CHICAGO,ILL. (/) ST.LOUIS,MO.SPRINGFIELD,MASS.
This machine is the invention of John Groesbeck (1834-1884), a consulting accountant, operator of the Crittenden Commercial College in Philadelphia, and author of several textbooks on commercial arithmetic. It apparently was his only invention. According to a review in the Philadelphia School Journal, it sold for $6.00 in 1871. The firm of Ziegler & McCurdy dissolved in 1872, suggesting that this object was made quite near the time of the patent. It was given to the Smithsonian in 1944 as a gift of Lt. John P. Roberts of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
John Groesbeck, “Improvement in Adding-Machines," U.S. Patent 100,288, March 1, 1870.
“Groesbeck’s Calculating Machine,” Pennsylvania School Journal, vol. 19 #7, January, 1871., p. 216.
E. Martin, The Calculating Machines (Die Rechenmaschinen), trans. P. A. Kidwell and M. R. Williams, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, p. 383.
George P. Donehoo, editor. Pennsylvania A History - Biographical, Chicago/New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1928, 290 to291.
Currently not on view
date made
Groesbeck, John
Ziegler & McCurdy
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
place patented
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
brass, nickel-plated (overall material)
overall: .8 cm x 16.8 cm x 7.5 cm; 5/16 in x 6 5/8 in x 2 15/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Lt. (j.g.) John P. Roberts, U.S.N.R.
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Adding Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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