Peerless Calculating Machine

This manually operated, non-printing stepped drum calculating machine has a brass mechanism on an iron support, both painted black. The machine is mounted on a slab of wood and has a rough wooden cover.
Eight levers are used to set stepped drums. A row of windows below the levers reveals the number entered. A lever on the left is set for addition and multiplication or subtraction and division. A crank on the right is turned repeatedly to calculate.
A movable carriage has a row of nine small windows at the front that reveal discs below that register the number of revolutions. A row of 16 discs behind this records the result. Zeroing levers for both of these registers are on the right side of the carriage, and a handle for lifting the carriage is on the left. A zeroing handle for the stepped drums is on the left side of the front of the machine. A bell rings when the result passes through zero.
A mark on the cover reads: Peerless. A mark on the front of the machine reads: KEUFFEL & ESSER Co (/) NEW YORK. Another mark there reads: GERMANY. The serial number, marked on the back rim of the carriage at the left, is 3563.
Compare MA*325564, MA* 326642, and MA*323628.
This machine comes from the collection of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company of Chicago.
In about 1904, the German firm of Mathias Bäuerle, a manufacturer of clocks, began making a stepped drum calculating machine on the design of Tobias Bäuerle, a son of the founder of the company. It was dubbed the Peerless. Keuffel & Esser Company, an American manufacturer of drawing instruments, soon offered the Peerless in its catalogs.
The 1913 Keuffel & Esser catalog (p. 292–293), 1915 catalog (pp. 292–293), and 1921 catalog (pp. 290–291) show a machine like this one, although it is marked “PEERLESS” on the side. The placement of the Keuffel & Esser mark is different, and one of the zeroing levers apparently is on the left, not the right, side of the carriage. In 1913, the machine was offered in 3 capacities, 6x7x12, 8x9x16, and 10x11x20. These versions sold for $250.00, $300.00, and $375.00. K & E no longer offered a reckoning machine in its 1927 catalog, and Peerless was not making a machine of this capacity by 1928.
Keuffel & Esser, Catalog.
E. Martin, The Calculating Machines (die Rechenmaschinen), trans. P. A. Kidwell and M. R. Williams, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, pp. 149–151.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1915
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Keuffel & Esser Co.
place made
Deutschland: Baden-Württemberg, Schwarzwald
place distributed
United States: New Jersey, Hoboken
Physical Description
iron (overall material)
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 18.2 cm x 61.2 cm x 27 cm; 7 5/32 in x 24 3/32 in x 10 5/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Victor Comptometer Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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