Gould's Patent Arithmetical Frame

Many nineteenth-century educators believed that a careful study of arithmetic contributed to general mental discipline among students. To improve such teaching, several inventors proposed special instruments. This arithmetical frame, patented by John Gould of Chatham, New Jersey, in 1882, was an improved example of an instrument patented by Henry K. Bugbee of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1864. Gould soon moved to New York City, where he manufactured not only his arithmetical frame but school furniture.
The tan, brown and black device has a wooden frame that holds 18 rotating wooden slats. Each slat has a round dowel at one end that fits into one side of the frame. The other end of the slat has a knob for rotating the slat, as well as a spring and washer to hold it in place. Eight large numbers are on each side of each slat. At the right side is a smaller number (ranging from 1 to 18) on one side and the same number over a letter on the other side. Each slat has a decimal point between two of the digits on it. The frame could be set in numerous positions, giving different arithmetic problems. Solutions were given in a key (see 1994.0038.02).
The front is marked at one end: PATENTED (/) ARITHMETICAL FRAME (/) JOHN GOULD, 72 MURRAY ST. N.Y. A mark at the other end of the front reads: COMBINATION OF SLATS COPYRIGHTED, 1881.
Gould actively recruited endorsements of his device from both public and private schools (see 1994.0038.03). According to an 1882 advertisement, he sold the instrument in three sizes, for prices ranging from $2.25 to $8.00. This object is slightly larger than the smallest size listed in the advertisement.
H. K. Bugbee, “Arithmetical Frame,” U.S. Patent 43,545, July 12, 1864.
J. Gould, “Arithmetical Frame,” U.S. Patent 262,221, August 8, 1882.
“Gould’s Pat. Improved Arithmetical Frame," The Primary Teacher, vol. 5 #7, March, 1882, p. 270 (advertisement).
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1890
Gould, John
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
string (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 1.6 cm x 15.5 cm x 25 cm; 5/8 in x 6 3/32 in x 9 27/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Joel S. and D. Hope Pratt
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Arithmetic Teaching
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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