Hollerith Card Sorter

During the 1880s the engineer Herman Hollerith devised a set of machines for compiling data from the U.S. Census. Hollerith's tabulating system included a punch for entering data about each person onto a blank card, a tabulator for reading the cards and summing up information, and a sorting box for sorting the cards for further analysis.
This third part of the system, the sorter, is shown on the right in the photograph. It is an oak box with 26 vertical compartments arranged in two rows. Each compartment has a brass cover that is held in place by an electric catch connected to the tabulator. The sorter is connected by a cable to the tabulator. Once a card is read by the tabulator, a compartment opens in the sorter, indicating where the card should be placed for further counting. The front and back sides of the sorter open so that one may remove stacks of cards from the compartments.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Tabulating Machine Company
Physical Description
metal (covers material)
oak (cabinet material)
rubber (cord material)
overall: 32 1/2 in x 30 1/2 in x 12 1/2 in; 82.55 cm x 77.47 cm x 31.75 cm
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Computers & Business Machines
Census, US
Tabulating Equipment
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Tabulating Equipment
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
Additional Media

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