Tate's Arithmometer

Tate's Arithmometer

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This stepped drum manual non-printing calculating machine is of English manufacture. It represents an improvement of the arithmometer invented by the Frenchman Charles Xavier Thomas in the 1820s and sold successfully from the middle of the 19th century. In 1879 the Prudential Assurance Company challenged English makers to produce a more reliable machine than that of Thomas. The firm of Elliott Brothers made some twenty such machines, and won the premium offered. The engineer Samuel Tate of Clerkenwell Close in Middlesex County also set out to make a simpler, faster, sturdier, and more accurate arithmometer. Tate filed for a British patent in 1881, and received it in 1884.
Charles and Edwin Layton, London publishers of works on insurance, annuities and mathematics, sold Tate’s arithmometer. They exhibited it at the International Inventions Exhibition held in London in 1885, and manufactured it, with improvements, at least until the time of World War I.
The machine has a brass top and metal mechanism that fits tightly in a wooden case. It has eight levers for setting digits, and an ADD MULT / SUB DIV lever to the left of these levers. It has no windows for showing the number set up. The operating crank is on the right.
Behind the levers is a movable carriage with a row of nine windows for the revolution register and a row of 16 windows for the result register. The right side of the carriage has a zeroing crank for these registers. A handle for lifting the carriage is toward its left. Five brass decimal markers fit in holes between the levers and between the windows. Thumbscrews for setting numbers in the revolution and result registers are between the registers. The stepped drums are of brass. The compartment in the case to the left of the machine has no cover. Handles at both ends of the case make it easier to lift the machine.
A mark to the left of the levers on the front reads: TATE’S (/) ARITHMOMETER (/) C. & E. LAYTON (/) LONDON. The inside of the machine below the carriage on the left side is engraved: 8.15.
This example comes from the collection of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company of Chicago.
Compare MA.311,953, MA.323657, MA.323629, and MA.333922.
Horsburgh, E. M., ed., Handbook of the Napier Tercentenary Celebration of Modern Instruments and Methods of Calculation, Edinburgh: G. Bell & Sons, 1914, pp. 102–104.
Stephen Johnson, “Making the Arithmometer Count,” Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 52 (1997), pp.12–21.
Samuel Tate, “Improvements in Calculating Machines or Arithmometers,” U.K. Patent #65 for 1884. The provisional specification for this patent is dated March 29, 1881.
Currently not on view
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1900
C. & E. Layton
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 16.7 cm x 63.5 cm x 20 cm; 6 9/16 in x 25 in x 7 7/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
maker number
not found -
Credit Line
Gift of Victor Comptometer Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Calculating Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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