Odhner Arithmometer

In about 1886 the Swede W. T. Odhner, who worked in St. Petersburg, Russia, opened his own shop where he worked on improvements to the pinwheel calculating machine he had introduced the previous decade. By 1890, Odhner had a commercial product, and had begun to produce calculating machines in some numbers. In 1893 he exhibited his arithmometer, or reckoning machine, at the Columbian Exposition, a World’s Fair held in Chicago.
This is an example of an Odhner arithmometer from the 1890s. The machine has a brass frame, painted black, with eight metal pinwheels and a wooden base. Numbers are set by rotating the pinwheels forward, using levers that extend from the wheels. Digits inscribed on the frame next to the rotating pinwheels show the number set. The machine has no separate set of windows to show these digits.
The carriage is at the front of the machine, with eight windows for the revolution counter on the left and 13 windows for the result register on the right. Wing nuts at opposite ends of the carriage zero these registers. To release the carriage, one pushes down a lever at the front. the machine has no metal holds to ease the shifting. A crank with a wooden knob on the right side of the machine rotates clockwise for addition and multiplication, and counterclockwise for subtraction and division. The machine has no decimal markers.
A mark on the top reads: No 2676. Another mark there reads: The Spectator Company (/) New York
Compare MA*328418.
According to the Odhner History, W. T. Odhner manufactured calculating machines in Russia on his own from 1886 until his death in 1905. According to Timo Leiipälä, from 1892 until 1896 Odhner manufactured calculating machines in conjunction with an Englishman named Hill. These machines are marked (in Cyrillic) Odhner and Hill. There appears to be no mention of Hill on this machine. By the time Odhner manufactured machine number 2490, Hill was no longer in the picture. Leipälä dates the machine to between 1896 and 1899. The Spectator Company of New York was the U.S. agent for the Odhner calculating machine from at least 1897 through at least 1903. In 1897 it advertised this model of the Odhner as selling for $125.
Timo Leipälä, “The Life and Works of W. T. Odhner,” Greifswalder Symposium zur Entwicklung der Rechentechnik, ed. W. Girbardt, Greifswald: Univ. Greifswald, Inst. für Mathematik und Informatik, 2003 and 2006.
Timo Leipälä, Personal communication.
Henry Wassen, Odhner History, Gothenburg, Aktiebolaget Original-Odhner, 1951.
The Spectator Company, The Insurance Year Book 1897-8, New York, 1897, p. 30.
Currently not on view
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1896
Odhner, W. T.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 14 cm x 34.2 cm x 20.6 cm; 5 1/2 in x 13 15/32 in x 8 1/8 in
place made
Rossiya: Rossiya, St. Petersburg
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
maker number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object