Payen Arithmometer

Payen Arithmometer

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This stepped drum manual non-printing calculating machine has a brass and steel mechanism that fits snugly in a wooden case. Six levers, each with a stepped drum beneath it, move back to set digits. The brass plate that covers the drums and the top of the machine has slits in it to allow these and other parts to move. The edges of the slits next to digit levers are numbered from 0 to 9 to indicate the digit entered. A lever to the left of these is either pushed back for addition and multiplication or forward for subtraction and division. Further to the left is a glass-covered compartment. Right of the digit levers is the operating crank. It has an ivory handle, which bends down so that the lid would close. The lid is missing.
Behind the levers is a movable carriage that can be set in seven different positions. It has seven windows for the revolution register and 12 windows for the result register. The revolution counter register turns clockwise for subtraction and division and counterclockwise for addition and multiplication. Rotating a black knob on the right of the carriage zeros the revolution register, and rotating a knob on the left zeros the result register. Turning the thumbscrews enters numbers in both the revolution and the result registers. Between the windows are holes for decimal markers, although there are no markers. The bottom of the case is covered with red felt. Holes in the sides of the case permit motion of the zeroing mechanisms in the carriage.
A mark on the center front reads: ARITHMOMETRE (/) No 2345 (/) L. PAYEN (/) PARIS (/) 44, RUE DE CHATEAUDUN, 44. A mark to the left of this reads: 16. A tag on the inside of the bottom of the case reads: G.F. REDFERN (/) SOLE AGENT FOR (/) ENGLAND,AMERICA (/) AND THE (/) COLONIES (/) SOUTH ST FINSBURY LONDON.
Charles Xavier Thomas first envisioned a calculating machine in the 1820s, and by the mid-19th century was manufacturing commercial products. When Thomas died in 1870, his business was taken over by his longtime associate L. Payen. Payen continued to sell arithmometers under Thomas’s name until the mid-1880s. This is a relatively early example of a machine manufactured by Payen under his own name. Payen later introduced a rather different form of stepped drum machine.
This example was part of the collections of Felt & Tarrant Manufacturing Company of Chicago and its successor firm, Victor Comptometer Corporation.
Currently not on view
Object Name
calculating machine
date made
ca 1887
L. Payen
Payen, L.
place made
France: Île-de-France, Paris
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
glass (overall material)
felt (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 9 cm x 46.5 cm x 18 cm; 3 17/32 in x 18 5/16 in x 7 3/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
maker number
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
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.


Add a comment about this object