Moffett Register for Recording Alcohol Sales

Description
In the spring of 1877, to pay the interest on the public debt, the state of Virginia passed a law suggested by State Senator Samuel H. Moffett of Harrisonburg. Every liquor dealer and saloon in the state was to be equipped with a so-called Moffett register to record sales of liquor, allowing state tax collectors to know taxes due. This is an example of a Moffett register. Moffett and Otis Dean of Richmond received a patent for the device in 1877.
The counter has a black iron frame with a glass window in the front and a brass crank in the back. Two holes in the base allow the register to be fixed to a counter. Under the window are six dials, each of which can read any digit from 0 to 9. The dials are marked according to the decimal place of the digit. Turning the crank at the back an entire turn rings a bell and increases the setting on the tens dial (the rightmost). On the back is a covered keyhole. The case is locked and there is no key.
A mark inside the window above the dials reads: MOFFETT REGISTER. A mark on the outside of the front reads: ALCOHOLIC LIQUORS. Another mark there reads: No (/) 2872. The dials are labeled from left to right: 1 MILLION, 100 THOUSAND, 10 THOUSAND, 1 THOUSAND, 1 HUNDRED, TEN.
By 1878, use of the Moffett register reportedly was in decline.
References:
Samuel H. Moffett and Otis Dean, “Improvement in Alarm-registers for Use in Bar-rooms, &c.,” U.S. Patent 194,951, September 4, 1877.
“Virginia,” Appleton’s Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1877, ns, vol. 2, New York: Appleton, 1890., pp. 758-762.
“Virginia’s Novel Liquor Tax,” New York Tribune, September 15, 1877, p. 2.
“Decline of the Moffett Register,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1878, p. 6.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1877
place made
United States: Virginia
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
glass (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 11 cm x 22.5 cm x 13 cm; 4 11/32 in x 8 27/32 in x 5 1/8 in
ID Number
MA.319732
catalog number
319732
accession number
235052
Credit Line
Transfer from Library of Congress
subject
Mathematics
Spirits
Taxes
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Counters
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Comments

"Today I researched the "Moffett Register ". My mother-in-law and I learned quite a bit from your site. Here is her story: my father-in-law and his father had told my mother-in-law that the Moffett register they had was used to count trains at the N&W train station turn around. They always told her this, she never not believed this. Today we found out the register has nothing to do with the railroad! It is neat to know what it was really used for. Thank you for your site!"

Add a comment about this object