Peerless Calculating Machine

This manually operated, non-printing stepped drum calculating machine has a metal mechanism and an exterior painted black. It fits closely in a wooden case, with a slate to the left of the levers. Eight levers move to set stepped drums. A row of windows below the levers shows the number entered. A lever on the left is set for addition and multiplication or subtraction and division. The operating crank is on the right.
The movable carriage has a row of nine small windows at the front that reveal discs of the revolution register. A row of 16 discs behind this records the result. A zeroing lever for the revolution register is on the right side of the carriage, and one for the result register on the left. A metal handle for lifting the carriage is on the left. The zeroing handle for the stepped drums is on the left front of the machine.
A wooden rectangle hinged to the back of the case opens to serve as a stand, so that the machine slopes toward the operator. A sliding panel in the bottom of the machine opens to reveal the eight stepped drums. The drums are made from a gray metal composite, die–cast on brass cylinders. The teeth are not sharply pointed.
Tacked inside the lid of the case is a 1938 table of International Atomic Weights, updated and corrected for 1942. Another card has a handwritten table of difference factors for Ca-3, dated 1939.
The machine is marked: Keuffel & Esser Co. (/) New York. A mark stamped over a script MB on the front right of the machine reads: PEERLESS. Stamped on the back of the carriage at the left end is the serial number 2033. Stamped on the back rim of the case, behind the carriage, are the marks B. S. 5473 and 10081.
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. K&E advertised an earlier version of the Peerless, without the zeroing crank for the levers, in its 1906 catalog (p. 313). This model of the Peerless is shown in the 1909 catalog (pp. 302–303, K&E #4006N). It sold in three capacities (6x7x12, 8x9x16, and 10x11x20) for $250.00, $300.00, and $375.00. By 1913, K&E was offering a Peerless calculating machine with an iron stand rather than a wooden case.
This example was purchase by and used at the U. S. National Bureau of Standards.
Compare MA*325564, MA* 326642, and MA*323628.
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
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1910
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Keuffel & Esser Co.
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
slate (overall material)
overall: 15 cm x 59.3 cm x 25.4 cm; 5 29/32 in x 23 11/32 in x 10 in
place made
Deutschland: Baden-Württemberg, Schwarzwald
Deutschland: Baden-Württemberg, Schwarzwald
place distributed
United States: New Jersey, Hoboken
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from US National Bureau of Standards
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

9/9/2013 10:41:32 AM
Irv Kaplan
I am the second owner of a Peerless Calculator originally purchased from K&E in 1914 by The Ohio State University School of Mining Engineering . Do you know how many of these machines were sold and to whom? I would like to find out how they were actually used. Range of problems addressed by this technology. I purchased this machine in 1964 at a faculty auction.
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