Barbour Calculating Machine

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This small brass U.S. Patent Office model of a calculating machine is a modification of Edmund D. Barbour’s two earlier machines. It has a rectangular base on which is mounted crosswise a rotating cylinder. The cylinder has nine crosswise grooves that fill somewhat less than a quarter of the surface. Metal bands separate the grooves into columns, and each column has a set of nine sliding markers that fit in the grooves. Sliding these markers sets a number. There also is an array of pins around the cylinder, which is used in carrying. There are gears on both sides of the cylinder.
The registering mechanism has an open frame that holds three rods. One rod holds four type wheels, and the other two rods hold four gears each. Each type wheel has the numbers from 0 to 9.
The machine has no maker’s marks.
Compare 309172, 309173, and 318168.
The Edmund D. Barbour who took out this patent was probably Edmund Dana Barbour (1841–1925), a Boston native. He reportedly gained a fortune in the China trade, returning to Boston in 1871. Barbour took out two other patents for calculating machines; invested successfully in the Bell Telephone Company; carried out extensive genealogical research; and left most of his fortune in bequests to Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Radcliffe College. The model apparently did not lead to a successful product.
U.S. Patent 168080, September 28, 1875.
J. A. V. Turck, Origin of Modern Calculating Machines, Chicago: Western Society of Engineers, 1921, pp. 180–187.
“Sharon’s Rich Men,” Boston Daily Globe, February 20, 1888, p. 6.
“Fund for Three Local Colleges: Edmund D Barbour’s Will Gives Each $20,000 a Year,” Boston Daily Globe, March 13, 1925.
Kwang-Ching Liu, Anglo-American Steamship Rivalry in China, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962, esp. pp. 92–98, 128.
J. Gardner Bartlett, “Edmund Dana Barbour,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register , vol. 79, October, 1925, pp. 339–344. This obituary does not mention any inventive activity of Barbour.
Currently not on view
date made
Barbour, Edmund D.
Barbour, Edmund D.
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
place patented
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 5.5 cm x 19 cm x 12.2 cm; 2 5/32 in x 7 15/32 in x 4 13/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of L. Leland Locke
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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