Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Mathematon Calculating Machine

Mathematon Calculating Machine

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This full-keyboard, non-printing calculating machine has a metal frame painted black, with metal handles on each side. The nine columns of color-coded black and white digit keys each have a red clearance key at the bottom. To the right of the keyboard is a red plastic key that clears the entire keyboard; to the left is a red DIS key. Between the columns are metal rods painted green on one side and white on the other to serve as decimal markers. The keyboard is painted green. Above the keyboard nine number dials show a number set up on the keyboard.
Behind the keyboard is a carriage with a 17-dial result register and eight dial revolution counter. Right of the registers are clearance levers. Rods above both registers carry decimal markers. Thumbscrews set up numbers on the result register. A crank at the front of the machine may be intended to move the carriage.
The machine fits closely in a metal base, painted black, that carries the motor. This base has a box at the front with a small window and a lever. On the left it has ten digit keys arranged in four rows. It carries subtraction, addition, and multiplication bars at the front.
The machine is marked on the front right and on the back: MATHEMATON. It is marked on the left of the carriage: ALBERT F. LYONS (/) N.E. DISTRIBUTOR (/) BOSTON-MASS. It is marked on the left of the base: 4680. It is marked on the left: 21164. It is marked on a tag attached to the left : Patented in U.S.A. (/) July 2, 1926. Jan. 19, 1928. (/) June 9, 1927. Jan. 21, 1931. (/) Aug. 9, 1927. Febr.23, 1932. (/) Patented in Germany, Great Britain, France, (/) Italy and other foreign countries. A red tag attached to the machine reads: PATENT DEPT. (/) #252. It is marked on the right side of the carriage: Made in Germany.
On Feb. 23, 1932, August Kottmann took out U.S. patent 1,846,207 for a calculating machine and assigned it to Rheinische Mettallwaaren und Maschinenfabrik Soemmerda Aktiengesellschaft in Soemmerda, Germany. Other dates listed on the machine are not easily associated with U.S. calculating machine patents. A. Kottmann took out U.S. patents relating to calculating machines Sept. 7, 1927, Nov. 1, 1927, and Feb. 10, 1931, which he assigned to Rheinische. H. Schmidt took out a U.S. patent relating to calculating machines May 1, 1928, which he assigned to Rheinische. The dates listed on the tag on the machine may correspond to foreign patents for these inventions.
This example was model #252 in the Patent Division of Burroughs Corporation.
Currently not on view
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1933
Rheinische Metallwaaren und Maschinenfabrik Sömmerda Aktiengesellschaft
place made
Germany: Thuringia, Sömmerda
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
overall: 28 cm x 42 cm x 37 cm; 11 1/32 in x 16 17/32 in x 14 9/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Burroughs Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission on our collection pages is temporarily unavailable. Please check back soon!

If you have a question or require a personal response, please visit our FAQ or contact page.