Costometer Rotating Mathematical Tables

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The Costometer is a set of mounted mathematical tables designed to allow a payroll clerk who knows an employee's rate of pay and hours worked to simultaneously find his or her total weekly wage, deductions for federal and state unemployment taxes, deductions for Social Security taxes, and the net pay after deductions. The device was introduced in 1936 to assist business computing payrolls in the wake of the U.S. Social Security Act. It was copyrighted that year by Dean Babbitt and LeRoi E. Hutchings, with contributions to the design by Herbert Austin Brown.
The instrument has an iron frame painted black and rotating paper tables on a continuous loop. Fabric and a metal plate cover much of the tables. A sliding window associated with each table is moved across it to select the column of numbers to be used. Numbers along the edges of the windows assist in reading the tables. In the center of the sliding plate is a face that represents 60 minutes and 12 hours, presumably to aid in converting time to metric units. A central dial rotates 360 degrees and is numbered from 0 to 9. Cranks for moving the tables are on the sides (one of 4 cranks is missing in this example). A switch for an electric motor is on the left side. The machine has a dust cover.
A mark on a plate on the front reads: Costometer (/) Corporation (/) New York, N.Y. (/) Made in United States of America. A mark on a small plate at the base of the back reads: A100Z1019. A mark on the tables reads: Copyright 1936 by Dean Babbitt and L.E. Hutchings. A mark on the front toward the back reads: Costometer (/) PATENT PENDING.
No patent corresponding to this object has been found. This example came to the Smithsonian from the collection of Victor Comptometer Corporation, and quite probably was originally in the collection of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company.
“Mechanical Calculation Moves On,” Scientific American, 156 (February 1937): p. 114.
“Business Opportunities,” New York Times, August 30, 1936, p. F10. The same ad ran on the same page September 6, 1936.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1937
Costometer Corporation
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
paper (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
overall: 24 cm x 57 cm x 19 cm; 9 7/16 in x 22 7/16 in x 7 15/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Victor Comptometer Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Mathematical Charts and Tables
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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