Groesbeck's Calculating Machine


This stylus-operated non-printing flat adding machine has five cogged, linked wheels. Five windows at the bottom show sums of numbers entered. Five windows at the top show complementary digits and are used in subtraction. The outer casing of the instrument is nickel-plated brass, the mechanism is brass. The device lacks a stylus. It is marked: GROESBECK’S CALCULATING MACHINE (/) PATENTED MAR. 18 1870. It is also marked: ZIEGLER & McCURDY (/) PHILAPA.CINN.O.CHICAGO,ILL. (/) ST.LOUIS,MO.SPRINGFIELD,MASS.

This machine is the invention of John Groesbeck (1834-1884), a consulting accountant, operator of the Crittenden Commercial College in Philadelphia, and author of several textbooks on commercial arithmetic. It apparently was his only invention. According to a review in the Philadelphia School Journal, it sold for $6.00 in 1871. The firm of Ziegler & McCurdy dissolved in 1872, suggesting that this object was made quite near the time of the patent. It was given to the Smithsonian in 1944 as a gift of Lt. John P. Roberts of the U.S. Naval Reserve.


John Groesbeck, “Improvement in Adding-Machines," U.S. Patent 100,288, March 1, 1870.

“Groesbeck’s Calculating Machine,” Pennsylvania School Journal, vol. 19 #7, January, 1871., p. 216.

E. Martin, The Calculating Machines (Die Rechenmaschinen), trans. P. A. Kidwell and M. R. Williams, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992, p. 383.

George P. Donehoo, editor. Pennsylvania A History - Biographical, Chicago/New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1928, 290 to291.

Date Made: 1870

Patentee: Groesbeck, JohnMaker: Ziegler & McCurdy

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaPlace Patented: United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Subject: Mathematics


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


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Lt. (j.g.) John P. Roberts, U.S.N.R.

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.312824Accession Number: 167256Catalog Number: 312824

Object Name: adding machine

Physical Description: brass (overall material)brass, nickel-plated (overall material)Measurements: overall: .8 cm x 16.8 cm x 7.5 cm; 5/16 in x 6 5/8 in x 2 15/16 in


Record Id: nmah_690281

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