Hollerith Card Sorter

Hollerith Card Sorter

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
During the 1880s the engineer Herman Hollerith devised a set of machines for compiling data from the U.S. Census. Hollerith's tabulating system included a punch for entering data about each person onto a blank card, a tabulator for reading the cards and summing up information, and a sorting box for sorting the cards for further analysis.
This third part of the system, the sorter, is shown on the right in the photograph. It is an oak box with 26 vertical compartments arranged in two rows. Each compartment has a brass cover that is held in place by an electric catch connected to the tabulator. The sorter is connected by a cable to the tabulator. Once a card is read by the tabulator, a compartment opens in the sorter, indicating where the card should be placed for further counting. The front and back sides of the sorter open so that one may remove stacks of cards from the compartments.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Tabulating Machine Company
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
Physical Description
metal (covers material)
oak (cabinet material)
rubber (cord material)
overall: 32 1/2 in x 30 1/2 in x 12 1/2 in; 82.55 cm x 77.47 cm x 31.75 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
Census, US
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Tabulating Equipment
Computers & Business 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