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'Yours for Improvement'-The Adding Machines of Chicago, 1884-1930
July-September 2001 (vol. 23 no. 3)
pp. 3-21

Between 1884 and 1930, the city of Chicago emerged as a center of manufacture for a new kind of machine, designed especially to assist in ordinary addition. Chicago inventions and products would shape the adding machine industry into the second half of the 20th century.

1. By 1900, Chicago also boasted a small community of research mathematicians, centered at the University of Chicago. As best I can tell, however, there was no interaction between mathematicians and adding machine makers.
2. A.D. Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1977.
3. M.R. Williams, A History of Computing Technology.Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1985, p. 256.
4. For an overview of the American office machine industry, see J.W. Cortada,Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created 1865-1956,Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J., 1993.
5. The first cash registers, sold in the 1880s, recorded transactions by marking holes in a paper tape. There was no printed (let alone itemized) record of transactions. In 1892, National Cash Register began to offer cash registers that printed the totals of transactions on a continuous tape and generated a printed receipt. The machine still was not used to add up the cost of individual items nor to produce itemized records or receipts. Cash registers that added up the cost of items purchased in one transaction and produced itemized receipts sold only after World War I. See R.L. Crandall and S. Robins,The Incorruptible Cashier,The Vestal Press, Vestal, N.Y., 1990.
6. R.K. Otnes is investigating the history of these machines, and I thank him for drawing them to my attention.
7. On adders, see R.K. Otnes, "Sliding Bar Calculators," Etcetera: Magazine of the Early Typewriter Collectors Assoc., no. 11, June 1990, pp. 7-8. See also P.A. Kidwell, "Adders Made and Used in the United States,"Rittenhouse 1994,vol. 8, pp. 78-98. C.E. Locke Manufacturing is listed in Chicago city directories for 1903 through 1907. It also is mentioned in a company brochure, "A Few Words From Satisfied Customers Who Use The Locke Adder," C.E. Locke Mfg., Kensett, Iowa, [no date], Worth County Historical Society, Northwood, Iowa. Locke, like Fowler, sold his machine for $5.00.
8. The image appears in several editions of Rapid Mechanical Calculation, Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing Co., Chicago [no date], Mathematics Collections, Division of Information, Technology, and Society (hereafter referred to as Mathematics), National Museum of American History (NMAH), Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
9. On the adding machines of St. Louis, see P.A. Kidwell, "The Adding Machine Fraternity at St. Louis: Creating a Center of Invention, 1880-1920,"IEEE Annals of the History of Computing,2000, vol. 22, pp. 4-21.
10. D.E. Felt took considerable pains to preserve the history of his life and work. For an account of the development of the adding machines, written by his longtime employee J.A.V. Turck, seeOrigin of Modern Calculating Machines,Western Society of Engineers, Chicago, 1921. Further information about Felt comes from an unpublished biography, W.W. Johnson, "Scars on My Hands: The Life of Dorr Eugene Felt, Inventor and Industrialist," Schmidt Collection, Mathematics, NMAH. From here on, I refer to this typescript as Johnson, "Scars." Turck says that Felt initially made eight machines (p. 69). Johnson says seven (p. 36). There also is presently considerable information about Comptometers on a Web site maintained by Brooke W. Boering. See v32n3/contributions/phillips.htmlhttp:/ / .
11. Johnson, "Scars," pp. 33-34.
12. Transcript of Record, in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, October Term, A.D. 1909, No. 1674,Comptograph Company vs. Burroughs Adding Machine Company,US Circuit Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit—Records of Briefs, RG276, US National Archives and Records Administration—Great Lakes Region, Chicago, p. 386.
13. Johnson, "Scars," pp. 34-35.
14. See D.E. Felt's letter to G.H. Brown of 14 June 1897 in the folder on Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing Co. in the Office Machines Series, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, NMAH.
15. D.E. Felt,"Deposition of Dorr E. Felt," Transcript of Record, in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, October Term, A.D. 1909, No. 1674,Comptograph Company vs. Burroughs Adding Machine Company,US Circuit Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit—Records of Briefs, RG276, US National Archives and Records Administration—Great Lakes Region, Chicago.
16. Johnson, "Scars," pp. 34-35.
17. On Daniel Draper and computing devices, see P.A. Kidwell, "American Scientists and Calculating Machines: From Novelty to Commonplace,"Annals of the History of Computing,1990, vol. 12, pp. 31-40.
18. Johnson, "Scars," p. 35.
19. Johnson, "Scars," pp. 36-38.
20. Johnson, "Scars," pp. 40-44.
21. Records of the Committee on Science and the Arts, Franklin Institute, no. 1422, 5 June 1889, Franklin Inst., Philadelphia.
22. US Trademark No. 18,154, 8 July 1890.
23. Turck, Origin of Modern Calculating Machines, p. 115.
24. See the brochure published by Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing, "Automatic Listing and Adding Machine. Comptograph, Price, $350," Chicago, [no date], Mathematics, NMAH.
25. "The Census by Machine," Chicago Sunday Tribune,12 Jan. 1890, p. 25.
26. Comptograph Co. vs. Universal Accountant Machinery Company et al., Circuit Court, N.D. Illinois, E.D. 19 Jan. 1906, Federal Register, vol. 142, 1906, pp. 539-545.
27. George B. Grant to Mr. Emery, 22 May [no year], Leland Locke Collection, Mathematics, NMAH.
28. Financial documents of Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing, Schmidt Collection, Mathematics, NMAH. Because stock in Felt&Tarrant was privately held, only scattered information about company profits is available.
29. Prospectus of the Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing Company . . ., financial documents of Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing, Schmidt Collection, Mathematics, NMAH.
30. The Business Machines and Equipment Digest, Equipment-Research Corp., Chicago, 1927, Section 9, pp. 15-16.
31. Felt&Tarrant Manufacturing,Comptograph Listing Adding Tabulating,Schmidt Collection, NMAH. Testimonials cited in this brochure are dated as late as 1900.
32. P.A. Kidwell, "The Adding Machine Fraternity at St Louis," p. 8. On Baldwin's interest in numbers and mathematics see the brochure, "A Personal Story of Interest to Business Men and Accountants," published by Monroe Calculating Machine Company, Orange, N.J., 1926.
33. Passport application of Henry Goldman, #39541, 19 Aug. 1907, Collection M1372, Nat'l Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
34. Henry Goldmann [sic],The Electric Detector: A Complete System of Testing Arithmetical Results Without Refiguring,Henry Goldmann [sic], New York, 1883.
35. These comments are based on skimming volumes 4, 7, and 8 of theOffice Men's Record. Nine volumes of the journal appeared between 1889 and 1896.
36. Booklet, Henry Goldman, World's Fair Guide for Office Men: Classification, Location and Description of Exhibits of Special Interest to Office Men, Office Men's Record Company, Chicago, 1893.
37. Diverse products sold by the Office Men's Record Company are listed in the company letterhead stationery used in Henry Goldman's 1899 correspondence with the Franklin Institute. See, for example, H. Goldman to W.M.H. Wahl, 21 Apr. 1899, Records of the Committee on Science and the Arts, Franklin Inst., no. 2099, Franklin Inst., Philadelphia.
38. Office Men's Record, vol. 4, Jan.-Mar. 1891. This volume is at the Chicago Historical Society in Chicago. The history of Landin Computer and Rapid Computer companies remain obscure. As yet, I know of no surviving examples that are marked as produced by the Landin Computer Company. Serial number 4566 (in private hands) is marked as a product of the Rapid Computer Company of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Serial number 4948 (in the collections of the Instituts für Mathematik und Informatik, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität [Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, University Ernst Moritz Arndt], Greifswald, Germany), is marked as a product of the Rapid Computer Adding Machine Company of Benton Harbor. Serial number 5817 (in the collections of the Arithmeum in Bonn) is marked as a product of the Rapid Computer Company of Chicago. This company advertised inScientific Americanfrom 1909 through 1911, offering the Rapid Computer for a price of $25 (see, for example,Scientific American,20 May 1911, vol. 104, p. 514). Apparently the company soon abandoned its Chicago headquarters, as serial number #6173 (in the collections of the Science Museum in London) is marked as a product of The Rapid Computer Company and of Baker-Vawter Company, both of Benton Harbor. I thank Dale Beeks, Warner Girbardt, Kevin Johnson, and Bernhard Korte for this information. A German version of the machine, called the Comptator, sold from 1909. See Ernst MartinThe Calculating Machines[Die Rechenmachinen], translated by P.A. Kidwell and M.R. Williams, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1992, p. 118 and pp. 216-218.
39. The Lightning adder described by Goldman is quite a different instrument from the stylus-operated Lightning adding machine that would be sold from Los Angeles in the mid-20th century.
40. H. Goldman, The Arithmachinist: A Practical Self-Instructor in Mechanical Arithmetic, The Office Men's Record Co., Chicago, 1898, p. 37.
41. H. Goldman, The Arithmachinist, pp. 38-39.
42. Boston Globe,23 Oct. 1898.
43. Electric World, 1998, vol. 32, p. 426.
44. See, for example, the letterhead of the International Arithmachine Company in a letter from Henry Goldman to W.M.H. Wahl, 24 Oct. 1899 and also Goldman to Wahl, 17 Sept. 1900, Records of the Committee on Science and the Arts, Franklin Inst., no. 2099, Franklin Inst., Philadelphia. A later version of Goldman's machine was called the Arithstyle. An example of this device in the NMAH collections has nine columns of chains and weighs about two pounds.
45. H. Goldman, The Arithmachinist, p. 55.
46. J. Wakefield, "A History of the TransMississippi&International Exposition," May 1903, Omaha Public Library, Omaha, Neb. This typescript report has been digitized and is presently available at the Web site of the Omaha Public Library. See the awards list at awardlist.html.
47. Records of the Committee on Science and the Arts, Franklin Inst., no. 2099, 3 Oct. 1900, Franklin Inst., Philadelphia.
48. Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 (Paris, France). [Catalogue of Exhibitors in the United States Sections of the International Universal Exposition], Imprimeries Lemercier, Paris, 1900, pp. 109-110, lists the American firms that exhibited in Class 13. A second document is the report of the US Commissioners to the fair,Report of the Commissioner-General for the United States to the International Universal Exposition, Paris, 1900..., Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1901, vol. 3, p. 41.
49. Brochure, Mechanical Arithmetic by the Aid of Goldman's Arithmachine, the International Arithmachine Co., Chicago, about 1899, Records of the Committee on Science and the Arts, Franklin Inst., no. 2099, Franklin Inst., Philadelphia.
50. These comments aboutModern Officeare based on examination of photocopies of a few pages of the journal in the library of the Arithmeum in Bonn. I thank the staff of the Arithmeum and Annagret Kehrbaum for access to these materials.
51. Book of Instructions for use of The Arithstyle 'The little brother of big business,' J.S. Lawson&Co., distributors, New York, [no date], Mathematics, NMAH.
52. The Gem adding machine, built on a 1904 patent of Nobyoshi H. Kodama and a 1906 patent of Kodama and Abraham I. Gancher, was sold by the Automatic Adding Machine Company of New York City from at least 1906. It was a pocket-sized device that added eight-digit numbers to produce eight-digit totals and cost $15. (For advertisements for the Gem, seeScientific American,27 Oct. 1906, vol. 95, p. 314, and 21 Sept. 1907, vol. 97, p. 216.) The company soon introduced a less expensive version of the instrument, the Golden Gem. It had only seven chains and sold for $10. A 1914 advertisement boasted that more than 80,000 of the small machines were in use. By 1915, the firm claimed that over 100,000 Golden Gems had been produced. (SeeScientific American,17 Jan. 1914, vol. 110, p. 74, and 17 Apr. 1917, vol. 112, p. 370.) Examples of the Golden Gem also have marked on them the patent date 19 Mar. 1907, corresponding to a patent of Gancher and A.T. Zabriskie.
53. Brochure,The Mallmann for Adding and Listing Price $275.00,published by Mallmann Addograph Manufacturing Co., Chicago [no date], in the Office Equipment Series, Warshaw Collection, Archives Center, NMAH. Also files of the Miami County Historical Society, Peru, Ind. I thank Mildred Kopis and Nancy Masten of the Miami County Museum for their assistance.
54. J.S. Currey, "Morse Adding Machine Company" and "Charles R. Morse,"Manufacturing and Wholesale Industries of Chicago,Thomas B. Poole, Chicago, 1918, pp. 307-310.
55. McCarthy,American Digest of Business Machines,p. 538.
56. Scientific American,13 Sept. 1913, vol. 109, p. 217.
57. American Can Company,Great Names in America,Chicago, about 1920. See also McCarthy,American Digest of Business Machines,vol. 27, pp. 517-518.
58. Brunsviga,Rechenmaschinen-Museum Katalog,vol. 1, Object # Zal1913-1, Olympia Werke AG, Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
59. McCarthy, American Digest of Business Machines, p. 27; The Business Machines and Equipment Digest, Equipment-Research Corp., Chicago, Section 3-1A, p. 2.
60. "Jervis R. Harbeck, Company Promotor," The New York Times,2 Mar. 1939, p. 21.
61. E. Darby, It All Adds Up: The Growth of Victor Comptometer Corporation, Victor Comptometer, Chicago, 1968, pp. 29-33.
62. Obituary of William O. Duntley,Chicago Daily Tribune,28 July 1925; "Notable Men of Chicago and Their City,"Chicago Daily Journal,Chicago, 1910, pp. 99-100.
63. E. Martin, Die Rechenmaschinen [The Calculating Machines], p. 202. Also [List of adding machine makers], Legal: Anti-Trust History File; Burroughs Legal: Miscellaneous, Box 1; Burroughs Collections, Charles Babbage Inst., Minneapolis, Minn.
64. "The Portable Adding Machine," Typewriter Topics, vol. 58, Oct. 1924, p. 50. For an obituary of Barrett, see "Inventor dies at 89: G.J. Barrett Made Calculator,"Grand Rapids Press,25 Jan. 1958. I thank the Grand Rapids Public Library for this reference.
65. Barrett claimed in a 1924 advertisement that "Twenty years ago the fascination of Adding Machine design and invention crowded everything else out of my mind." (Typewriter Topics,vol. 58, Oct. 1924, p. 48). His first US patent relating to computing machines was granted in 1910 (#976336).
66. Typewriter Topics, vol. 62, Jan. 1926, p. 93.
67. Typewriter Topics, vol. 67, Sept. 1927, pp. 55-56.
68. Typewriter Topics, vol. 67, Sept. 1927, p. 35.
69. "Adding Machine Competition," Legal: Anti-Trust History File, Burroughs Corp. Papers, Charles Babbage Inst., Minneapolis, Minn. In Nov. 1949, Burroughs representatives indicated that the combined sales of the Smith-Corona, Barrett, and Swift adding machines by volume were perhaps 3.4 percent of total sales of adding machines in the US. This compared to an estimated 25.7 percent of total sales made by Burroughs, 14.4 percent by Victor, and 15.7 percent by Remington.
70. For an obituary of Brennan, see theChicago Daily Tribune,7 June 1952, p. 7. Mehan is listed as a chemical engineer, the factory manager of the Brennan Adding Machine Company, and a junior member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers,Membership List,1930, p. 304. He had joined the organization in 1926.
71. "Making Its Debut," Typewriter Topics, vol. 71, Jan. 1929, p. 92.
72. Business Equipment Topics, vol. 77, Jan. 1931, p. 114.
73. Business Equipment Topics,vol. 82, Sept. 1932, pp. 26-27, and vol. 84, June 1933, pp. 27, 30.
74. Darby, It All Adds Up, pp. 77-80.
75. William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, W.W. Norton, New York, 1991.

Peggy Aldrich Kidwell, "'Yours for Improvement'-The Adding Machines of Chicago, 1884-1930," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 3-21, July-Sept. 2001, doi:10.1109/85.948903
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