Schilt Adding Machine


This is one of the oldest surviving key-driven adding machines. Victor Schilt, a little-known clock maker from the Swiss canton of Solothurn, sent it for exhibition at the first of the great world’s fairs, the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition held in London in 1851. The entry received an honorable mention, and Schilt reportedly received an order for 100 machines, which he declined to fill.

The front, top and mechanism of the machine are steel, and the case is wood. The plate and zeroing knobs on the top and the nine digit keys across the front are made of brass. The machine adds numbers up to 299. Only one-digit numbers may be entered. The result is visible in a window in the plate. The plate is marked: V. Schilt (/) Mechaniker in Solothurn.

The Schilt machine closely resembles an adding machine patented in France in 1844 and sold by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué and his son Charles. Schilt had worked for the elder Schwilgué before building his machine. Schilt’s machine was part of the collection of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company, and was given to the Smithsonian by the successor to that firm, Victor Comptometer Corporation.


J. A. V. Turck, Origin of Modern Calculating Machines, Chicago: Western Society of Engineers, 1921.

Denis Roegel, “An Early (1844) Key-Driven Adding Machine,” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 30 #1 (January-March 2008), pp. 59-65.

Denis Roegel, "An Overview of Schwigué's Patented Adding Machines," Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, 126 (September 2015), pp. 16-22.

Date Made: 1850

Maker: Schilt, Victor

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Switzerland: Solothurn, Solothurn

Subject: Mathematics


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics, Adding Machines, Science & Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Victor Comptometer Corporation

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.323660Accession Number: 250163Catalog Number: 323660

Object Name: adding machine

Physical Description: wood (overall material)metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 11.9 cm x 26 cm x 14.5 cm; 4 11/16 in x 10 1/4 in x 5 23/32 in


Record Id: nmah_690194

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