Cushman Crary

On 23 May 1882, Mary E. Winter of Galesburg, IL, and Cushman W. Crary of Chicago, IL (assignor to Mary Winter), patented a keyboard adding machine (see US patent Nr. 258518). Interestingly, one of the early keyboard calculating machines in US and the world was also invented by an American woman, who’s surname was also Winter (see the machine of Caroline Winter). Mary Winter most probably got the idea of the calculator and ordered device to Cushman Crary, who was a mechanic and prolific inventor.

The first page from the patent drawing of the machine of Winter and Crary
The first page from the patent drawing of the machine of Winter and Crary

Nothing is known about this device, except the patent application, so obviously it remained only on paper. Let’s examine the operation of this keyboard adder, using the patent drawing (see the nearby image).

Suppose the number 300 to be exposed at the slot (marked with A’), and the number 5 to be the first number in a column to be added; by striking the key 5 the dial will be rotated to bring the figure 5 thereon exposed at the opening A’. Then suppose the number 6 to be the next number in the column to be added; by striking the key 6 the dial will be moved to expose the number 11 at the opening A’, which number 11 represents the sum of 6 added to 5; and thus the addition may be continued on the outer series of figures on the dial until the number 300 is reached, when the addition may be continued on the inner series until the number 600 is reached. Whenever a column of numbers are added, and it is desired to commence a new column, the detent-pawl K may be disengaged from the ratchet-wheel by pressing on the lifter L, and the spring P be allowed to rotate the ratchet-wheel in the direction shown by the dotted-line arrow until the stop N’ comes in contact with the detent M and arrests the rotation, with the dial-plate in the position hereinbefore described, and in position to commence adding a new column of numbers.

It will be seen that an index or pointer, instead of a dial-plate, may be arranged to rotate with the ratchet-wheel, and a fixed dial-plate be used therewith, and also that a brake may be attached to the detent-pawl K, as shown by dotted lines at the rear end of the pawl K, which brake will come in contact with the ratchet-wheel when the pawl is turned to release it, and thus prevent a too rapid motion of the ratchet-wheel from the action of the spring P.

Biography of Mary Winter and Cushman Crary

Almost nothing is known about Mary Winter. Mary Elizabeth Winter was married to Asaph Newton Carpenter (1828-1906), a landscape architect from Rehoboth, Massachusetts. They married in 1853, and they had two daughters. The family moved to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1854, from which Carpenter did “landscape gardening” and landscape design work regionally, including throughout Illinois as well as in Iowa and Nebraska.

There is some info about Cushman Crary. Cushman Walker Crary was born on 12 August 1822, in Potsdam, St. Lawrence County, New York. He was the son of Elias Crary (1795-1876) and Abigail Walker (1796-1861) of Vermont.

On 3 July 1846, in Kane County, Illinois, Cushman Crary married to Hannah Rowena Nichols (12 Feb 1824-20 Apr 1875) from Broadalbin, Montgomery County, New York. They had three children: Lewis Joshua (1847-1915), Marietta Emily (1851-1942), and Hamilton (b. 1852). After the death of Hannah in 1875, Cushman Crary married to Caroline Cass (1836-1907).

Besides the above-mentioned patent for adding machine, Cushman Walker Crary was a holder of at least three other US patents: US282059 for gear cutter, US299964 for chuck, and US334073 for electric-arc light.

Cushman Crary died on 21 April 1914, in Chicago, Illinois.

Peter Forrester

Peter C. Forrester's adding machine (the patent drawing)
Peter C. Forrester’s adding machine (the patent drawing)

In 1881 Peter C. Forrester from San Francisco, patented (see US patent Nr. 249606) a keyboard adding machine (see the nearby patent drawing).

The adding device of Forrester has a framework with an upright portion and a keyboard resembling somewhat an upright-piano. It has dial-plates and indicators adapted to be moved by clock mechanism and an escapement, an oscillating plate (marked with M), with a groove m for releasing said escapement, in combination with the means for oscillating said plate, consisting of the pinion l, segment K, crank I, upright rod G, crank F, rocking shaft D, with its pins d, and removable keys B, with their adjusted lifters b.

The device has a motor-spring, adapted to be wound up as a clock. The shaft on which it is carries the large gear X, from which motion is transmitted through appropriate gears to the dial or escapement-shaft S and to the shaft which operates the dial-finger Z of the dial-plate recording tens.

In short columns of numbers the device is not as useful as in long ones. When the latter have to be added the time taken in turning the dials after each row is not noticeable.

Biography of Peter Forrester

Peter C. Forrester was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1858, to Peter C. Forrester and Mary White. He lived in several western US states like Nevada, California, and Washington. Peter C. Forrester was a prolific inventor and businessman, the author of many (at least 10) US patents for various inventions like: method of mining coal (US patent 473734), scroll former (US543233), tool for binding metal strips (US543234), drill (US628404), filtering apparatus (US284495), and others.

On 25 July 1900, Peter Forrester married to Bessie Lynette Toner (1872-1925) from Detroit, Michigan.

Peter C. Forrester died on 5 July 1952, in Tacoma, Washington, at the age of 94.

Hugues Beaucourt

On 18 February 1881, Hugues Beaucourt (1845-1919), a son of the famous organ-builder from Lyon, France—Hippolyte-César Beaucourt (1822-1888), patented (French patent 141208) appareil pour calculer, an interesting adding device with rotatable (similar to telephone number dial) input mechanism. Later in the same 1881 he got a Spanish patent (Pat. Nr. ES1709A1 for aparato para calcular) for the device.

Le Recta calculating machine of Beaucourt
Le Recta calculating machine of Beaucourt

Hugues Beaucourt succeeded his father’s trade of organ making (from 1869 until 1914 he was in charge for the family business), but obviously had an inventive mind, because he was a holder of quite a few patents in different countries for various devices like: device for sounding motor-car, automatic adder for the demonstration of arithmetic principles, etc.

The original adding device of Hugues Beaucourt never went into production, but it was re-patented some 30 years later by his son Edmond Beaucourt (b. 1878) (Swiss patent CH62168 from 1912 for Machine à calculer portative, and Great Britain patent GB191217401 from 1913 for Improved Adding and Subtracting Apparatus) and was manufactured and sold under the name Le Recta in 1910s (see the nearby photo).

Le Recta calculating machine (patent drawing)
Le Recta calculating machine (patent drawing)

Le Recta is a RECTAngular metal column adder with dimensions (LxWxH): 12.5 x 8.5 x 1.5 cm, and weight: 524 g.

The construction of the device (see the nearby patent drawing) is simple and reliable, although the intriguing dialing input mechanism must had been rather slow (but also not prone to the common problem of the exceeding momentum, that could be given in an adding action).

The device can be used for adding and subtracting and comprises of a primary disk or wheel and one or more secondary numerical disks (in the patent application there three disks in the result mechanism), one of which will be turned through a predetermined angle at each revolution of the primary disk and will on completing each revolution turn the next secondary disk, thereby indicating the figures units, tens, hundreds, etc., appearing through orifices in the casing which is in the form of a small box.

Leonard Stowe

Leonard Stowe (1837-1920)
Leonard Stowe (1837-1920)

In the late 1870s the government clerk from Wellington, New Zealand—Leonard Stowe, devised a simple adding machine, which he patented in 1880 in Great Britain and Germany (patent Nr. DE11907). The English patent for Stowe’s Patent Calculating Machine (see the lower patent drawing) was assigned to Stowe brothers, 32, Essex Street Strand, London.

A working model of the machine was exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1880-1881 in Melbourne, Australia, and received a honorable mention (It was advertised as: This machine combines simplicity with accuracy, has no complicated machinery in it, and is guaranteed to last for years without repair. Any sums in Addition, either in plain figures or in money, can be performed with it.) Unfortunately, it seems there is not an example of the device, known to survive to the present, so we have only the patent application at our disposal.

The machine of Stowe consists of a number of cylinders, or rollers, with figures printed thereon, zero or naught being represented by a red square. To the left of the cylinders are a number of indicators, each of which records every perfect revolution of its corresponding cylinder.

To place the machine ready for work the indicators must be turned until zero or naught is visible; and the cylinders must be turned so that the zero on the extreme left i.e., nearest to the indicators is visible.

Let’s see an example of adding operation, using the patent drawing (see the image below).

The patent drawing of Leonard Stowe's adding machine
The patent drawing of Leonard Stowe’s adding machine

To add the following figures:

Turn the cylinder towards you till 4 appears in the first column at the left end—stop, start again from the Zero or Red Square, now visible till you come to 5 in that column; start again from the Zero or Red Square, now visible, till yon come to 7 in that column; start again from the Zero or Red Square, now visible, till you come to 3 in that column; start again from, the Zero or Red Square, now visible, till you come to 4 in that column.

On looking at the indicator you will find figure 2 recorded, and figure 3 will be the figure now visible at the left end of the cylinder, the two together making 23 which is the required total.

Note: The result of any addition will always be found by reading the figures recorded on the indicators together with the first figure on the left end of the cylinders.

Biography of Leonard Stowe

Leonard Stowe and his wife Jane Stowe (Greenwood) in early 1870s (Image courtesy of Marlborough Museum, Marlborough Historical Society Inc.)
Leonard Stowe and his wife Jane Stowe (Greenwood) in early 1870s (Image courtesy of Marlborough Museum, Marlborough Historical Society Inc.)

Leonard Stowe was born on 11 March 1837, in Trolly Hall, a large town house, still preserved in Buckingham, Aylesbury Vale District, South East England. He was the son of William Stowe (1791-1860), a surgeon and natural history enthusiast at Buckingham, and his wife, Mary Stowe (Rogers). His eldest brother, William Henry Stowe (1825–1855), was an English scholar and journalist.

Leonard Stowe attended a school at Iffley, near Oxford, and later (1853-1856) studied at the celebrated Rugby School in Warwick-shire (one of the oldest independent schools in Britain), when Dr Meyrick Goulburn was headmaster.

On 2 September 1858, Leonard Stowe went aboard the ship (barque) Lady Alice, traveling from Gravesend, near London, to Nelson (a town on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, in the South Island), New Zealand. In 19th century the voyage from England to New Zealand takes a lot of time (more then four months), so the ship arrived in Nelson on 14 January 1859.

In Nelson, Stowe had some years’ experience of station life under Arthur Penrose Seymour, a run-holder from the Awatere district. In 1863 Stowe was appointed secretary to Thomas Carter, third Superintendent of the province of Marlborough, and from 1864 Stowe acted under Seymour, when he was raised to the fourth Superintendent of the province of Marlborough.

In 1865 Stowe became Clerk of the Legislative Council, a position which he occupied for more than 20 years. In 1889 he was appointed as a Clerk of the Parliaments. Stowe has filled many other offices during his career (see the lower photo from 1902), and he was a notable figure in the Parliamentary life of New Zealand for over 30 years. He was also a headmaster of Nelson College for several years.

Leonard Stowe
Leonard Stowe in 1902

Leonard Stowe’s first wife, Mary Jane Iles-Stowe, died on 26 March 1868, aged only 30. Three years later, on 31 May 1871, he married in Nelson, New Zealand, to Jane Greenwood (1838-1931), an artist.

Jane was born on 18 April 1838, in Charenton-le-Pont, Île-de-France, France, the 3rd daughter of Dr John Danforth Greenwood (1803-1890), a successful physician from Mitcham, Surrey, England, and Sarah Greenwood (nee Field) (1809-1889). She arrived in Nelson, NZ, with her parents and siblings (7 brothers and sisters, as her youngest brother was born on-board the ship, en-route to New Zealand) aboard the Phoebe ship on 29 March 1843 (they left England from Gravesend on 16 Nov 1842, as Dr. Greenwood had secured the position of Surgeon Superintendent and Justice of the Peace, receiving free passage for himself and his family in return.)

In Nelson Danforth was working as a doctor, farmer, magistrate, Captain (of the Nelson Militia), Clergyman and Flax Agent. Later in his life he took a few public positions, like a member of the Legislative Council, Inspector of Schools, Principal of Nelson College, and Sergeant of Arms to the House of Representatives in Wellington. Sarah Danforth was a keen artist and letter writer, and took to the new job of housekeeping with gusto, and later between 1865 and 1868 she ran a successful school with six of their daughters (they had 12 children).

Dr John Danforth Greenwood (far left) and his wife Sarah Fields-Greenwood (far right), with family members in between (a photo from early 1850s). The girl with the cat in the first row is probably the young Jane Greenwood.
Dr John Danforth Greenwood (far left) and his wife Sarah Fields-Greenwood (far right), with family members in between (a photo from early 1850s). The girl with the cat in the first row is probably the young Jane Greenwood.

Leonard and Jane Stowe had five children: three sons— William Reginald (9 Mar 1872–9 Feb 1949 ), Harry, and Leonard Acland (11 Aug 1876–7 Nov 1876), and two daughters—Emily Muriel (10 Apr 1875–28 May 1971), and Mary Sylvia (28 Jul 1873–20 May 1927).

The house Te Moana (later known as Tiakiwai) at 2 Tinakori Road, Wellington, owned by Leonard and Jane Stowe.
The house Te Moana (later known as Tiakiwai) at 2 Tinakori Road, Wellington, owned by Leonard and Jane Stowe.

Jane Stowe was a delightful watercolorist and used to exhibit her paintings at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts since 1883 until 1931. She received many prizes and honorable mentions.

Leonard and Jane Stowe lived in a nice wooden house called Te Moana (later known as Tiakiwai) at 2 Tinakori Road, Wellington (see the nearby photo from 1880s).

Leonard Stowe died 83 years of age on 25 April 1920, and was buried in Bolton Street Cemetery, Wellington. His wife Jane died of bronchitis in Wellington on 5 November 1931, aged 93.

Johan Hellström

In the middle 1870s, the Swedish machinist Johan Fredrik Hellström devised räknemaskin (calculating machine), an interesting round adding device, similar to the earlier calculators of Braun, Leupold, and Hahn. The invention was announced in the Swedish press (e.g. in the newspaper Wermlands Läns Tidning from 21 June 1878). The calculating machine of Hellström was patented in 1879 (patent 10/7, 1879). The machine was presented at the Exposition Universelle 1878 in France and was awarded, as the inventor was appointed as a member of the Académie Nationale Agricole, Manufacturiere et Commerciale in Paris.

Hellström's Räknemaskin (calculating machine) from 1879 (©
Hellström’s Räknemaskin (calculating machine) from 1879 (©

The calculating machine (räknemaskin) of Hellström (see the nearby photo) was made of brass and walnut. Dimensions: diameter 16.5 cm, height 6.5 cm. Weight: 1.1 kg.

The machine is a decimal and 5-positional device, suitable for addition of up to 5-digit figures (1–99999). It has tens carry mechanism, so required ten transfers are performed automatically.

The machine has a cylindrical wooden case and outer brass ring with 100 holes (marked with 1 on the nearby image), used to set the one- and ten-decades. A window (2) show the figures in the outer ring mechanism. (3) is a stop pin and (4) is a stop plate, used to stop the rotation of the ring. (5), (6) and (7) are square shafts, used to set the hundred-decade, thousands-decade and tens-of-thousands-decade respectively, with pointers (used during the entering of a digit) and windows (to show the result) above the shaft to show the figures.

The outer ring and the square shafts may only be turned clockwise to prevent damage of the inner mechanism.

The square shafts with the pointers (5), (6) and (7) can be rotated to max value of 9 , before to be stopped by an internal hard stop. After adjustment, the shaft rotates by springs back until the pointer arrives at the original position. (0 or 1)

The adjusted figure remains in the display, transferred by an internal ratchet mechanism.

Hellström's calculating machine without the cover (©
Hellström’s calculating machine without the cover (©

Let’s make a simple addition, for example 34367+29435=63802, using the machine.

First we have to enter the first addend:
1. Set the figure 67 in the display window of the one- and ten-decade by putting the stop pin into the hole next to the number 67 and turning the outer ring (1) clockwise, until it stops (stop pin arrives at the stop plate’s groove).
2. Set on the hundreds-decade the figure 3 in the display window by turning the square shaft (5) clockwise.
3. Set on the thousands-decade the figure 4 in the same way.
4. Set on the tens of thousands-decade the figure 3.

Next we have to enter the second addend:
1. Put the stop pin in the hole next to the number 35 and turning the outer ring clockwise until it stops. The one and ten decades are added.
2. Add in the hundreds-decade by turning the square shaft (5) clockwise the figure 4. The figure is visible on the pointer.
3. Add in the thousands-decade and tens of thousands-decade in the same way—the numbers 9 and 2.

Now, in the windows, the final result (63802) will be displayed.

Biography of Johan Hellström

Little is known about the inventor of this calculating machine. Johan Fredrik Hellström was born on 3 November 1832, in Helgona, a village nearby Nyköping, Sweden. He was the son of Carl Hellström and his second wife Anna Catharina Hellström (Malmberg). In 1857 he moved to Nyköping, where he lived until his death on 19 May 1921. His occupation was listed as machinist and fabricant.

Nels Ockerlund

In 1870 Nels Ockerlund (1837–1903), a Swedish immigrant (he immigrated to the United States in 1865 and settled in New York City, and became a citizen in 1879), patented two calculating devices—an improved rule and calculator (U.S. Patent 102034 issued 19 April 1870), and improved adding-machine (U.S. Patent 105717 issued 26 July 1870).

Ockerlund's Rule and Calculator (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
Ockerlund’s Rule and Calculator (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The patent model of the first device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (see the nearby image).

Ockerlund’s Rule and Calculator is made of wood and German silver, and has overall measurements: 3.2 cm x 17.7 cm x 4.4 cm. This combined instrument may be used to measure distances of up to 24 inches, to measure angles, to solve problems relating to ratios, to assist in finding the area of triangles when the lengths of three sides are known, and to add three-digit numbers. It is in the general shape of a four-fold rule, with a wooden core covered on both sides with German silver. A scale of inches, divided to 1/16″ and numbered by ones from 1 to 12 twice, runs along the outer edges of the arms. Along the inner edges of both arms are scales of equal parts, with 30 parts to the inch.

A protractor is at the center joint. A hollow in one arm contains two rules. One rule unfolds to reveal a 10″ scale and a scale of 30 parts per inch. The other rule has a 4-1/2″ scale and a scale of 30 parts per inch. These rules are supposed to attach to slides that move in a groove in one of the arms, allowing the solution of problems of proportion. To add numbers, one removes the longer rule from the groove, and places it alongside the scale on the arm.

Ockerlund'a Adder (U.S. Patent 105717 issued 26 July 1870)
Ockerlund’a Adder (U.S. Patent 105717 issued 26 July 1870)

A third rule slides and pivots in a hollow in the other arm. Using this rule and the two arms of the instrument as sides, one can represent a triangle. The grooved arm serves as the base and a rule sliding in the groove measures the height of the triangle, from which one can calculate its area.

For the second calculating instrument of Ockerlund—the adding device, we have nothing but the patent application (see the nearby patent drawing). This simple calculating instrument is similar to the earlier device of John Nystrom (another Swedish immigrant in the USA) from 1851.

The invention has for its object to furnish a simple and convenient machine, by means of which numbers may be added and subtracted quickly and accurately, and which will enable the several amounts or differences to be registered as obtained. It has a plate, circular in general form, which has a wide circular groove formed in its face, in such a way as to leave a narrow rim around its outer edge, and a small circle at its center.

William Briggs

On 2 December 1879 William Briggs (1813-1887), a farmer and miller of Stoughton, Massachusetts, received a patent for arithmetical calculator (see US patent Nr. 222126). The patent model of the device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (see the image below). In his patent application Briggs mentioned previous patents of Strode (US Patent Nr. 74170), Hudson (Nr. 45829), and Parmelee (Nr. 99226).

The quick and sure reckoner of William Briggs (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The quick and sure reckoner of William Briggs (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The calculator of William Briggs (he called it quick and sure reckoner) is a wood, metal and paper device with overall measurements: 2.2 cm x 15 cm x 15.4 cm.

The calculator of William Briggs is an adder with a square wooden frame. On top is a piece of paper printed with the numbers from 1 to 100 and a rotating tin disc. The disc has 100 holes and is covered with another piece of paper, with the digits from 1 to 100 printed around the edge. Atop this disc is a second, smaller wooden stellated wheel (disc) with 10 serrations around the edge.

The carry mechanism is implemented by means of a fixed metal arm which reaches over the 100 disc on the outside paper. This arm advances the smaller disc at every rotation of the larger disc.

Briggs suggested that further wheels could be introduced to indicate thousands, ten thousands, etc., but he didn’t include these wheels on the simple wooden and paper model he sent to the US Patent Office.

James Ritty

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
Pema Chödrön

James Ritty (1836-1918)
James Ritty (1836-1918)

In 1878 one James Ritty, a 42 years old saloon keeper from Dayton, Ohio, was brooded so much over the peculations in his business, that he suffered a breakdown and decided to take a steamboat vacation trip to Europe. His business seemingly flourished, but he lost money, and he knew the reason—like every other retail business of the day that handled money over the counter, the only receptacle for receipts, save the pocket of the owner, was a cash drawer. It could be easily opened with the result that barmen were able to hold out as much cash as they desired. A constant turnover of barmen brought James Ritty no relief.

Having been trained as a mechanic, during the trip Ritty became interested in the machinery of the ship and made friends with the Chief Engineer. Soon he had the opportunity to examine the engine room, where he saw pistons and governors and drive shafts and steam gauges, but something else caught his eye—he became fascinated before the automatic mechanism, that recorded the revolutions of the ship’s propeller. Ritty thought: If a device could be made to count the revolutions, why not one to count transactions? There is a great field for a machine that can do this work.

From that inspired moment, amid the din and clash of the engine room, the idea of the cash register began to take shape in his mind. Ritty became so obsessed with his idea that he cut short his stay in Europe and returned to USA.

Back in Dayton, James immediately tossed the question to his brother John. Two of James’ brothers (there were five brothers), Sebastian (1827-1891) and John (1834-1913), also were of an inventive turn of mind. The eldest brother, Sebastian, took out a number of patents on farm implements. John, who was a mechanic by trade, carried on the inventive tradition of the family. Among other things (like a wheel, railroad car coupling, etc.), he patented several machines for the hulling of green corn and set up a canning factory in which they were used.

The first model of James Ritty's cash register
The first model of Ritty brothers cash register

Ritty brothers started their work in a small room on the second floor over the James’ cafe at 10 South Main Street, Dayton. In the middle of 1879 they already had a working model, but it was a total failure, being inaccurate. The cash register of Ritty was essentially a keyboard adder, and these type of machines were known in the USA and the world from decades, e.g. the machine of Caroline Winter from 1859. Like the machine of Winter, the first model of Ritty cash register (see the nearby image) looked like a clock with a keyboard. It had two rows of keys along the lower front, labeled with cents in five cent increments from 5 to 95 cents and dollar amounts from 1 to $9, and had no cash drawer. Pressed down, each key represented the individual amount of money to be recorded. The sales were registered on large dial, probably resembling the one on the ship, with two sets of numbers (the outer circle of numbers showed cents and the inner one dollars) around its circumference and two hands operated by the keys.

The second model wasn’t all that better. It resembled the first in all details with one exception—instead of adding disks the brothers designed a series of adding wheels mounted in the back of the machine.

The above-mentioned second model was patented on 4 November 1879 (see the lower patent drawing of US221360) as Cash Register and Indicator. It was the first US patent ever issued for a cash register. However, neither of these two models was put on the market.

Cash Register and Indicator of Ritty (the patent drawing)
Cash Register and Indicator of Ritty (the patent drawing)

Obviously dissatisfied with their first models, Ritty brothers began a new line of development. In the third machine, called Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier, instead of the dial type of indication they substituted a tablet form with pop-up numbers. The tablet indicators were small plates bearing the same money values engraved on the top of the keys, and were connected with the indicators by vertical sliding rods. As a key was depressed the indicator rod, resting on the key, was elevated until the indicator showed through a glass-covered opening in the upper part of the machine.

This seemed to be an important improvement because the amount of the sale was revealed to both cashier and client, thus providing increased protection for the merchant, because it shed the light of publicity on every transaction. There was still no cash drawer in the machine, and this model was also not sold to the public.

The paper roll machine of James Ritty
The paper roll machine of James Ritty

In their fourth machine, which came to be known as the paper roll machine (see the nearby image), Ritty mounted a paper roll horizontally above and across the keys inside the box. Each key carried a sharp pin, and when the key was depressed, its pin pricked a hole in the paper roll just above the key. At the same time the paper roll would be advanced one step. The result was that at the end of the day the owner could remove the roll of paper, tear the portion representing the daily sales, and count the holes in each column. If for example there were 100 holes in the 25-cent column at the end of the day, the merchant knew he had done $25 worth of business in 25 cent sales. Thus the register not only told the owner the exact amount of the day’s business, but also the total done in each price range. There was a bell to “ring up” sales.

The paper roll machine was the first to be put on sale, and several sales had been made to bar and cafe owners. Soon John Henry Patterson (1844–1922), an eccentric and aggressive businessman from Dayton, who was mainly in coal and railroad affairs, but also had a grocery and general store, bought a couple of the machines for his store. Before very long Patterson was to become the pioneer of cash register production and to make his name synonymous with its development and distribution.

Let’s see how Patterson described why cash registers became a necessity for his business:
We were obliged to be away from the store most of the time so we employed a superintendent. At the end of three years, although we had sold annually about $50,000 worth of goods on which there was a large margin, we found ourselves worse off than nothing. We were in debt, and we could not account for it, because we lost nothing by bad debt and no goods had been stolen. But one day I found several bread tickets lying around loose, and discovered that our oldest clerk was favoring his friends by selling below the regular prices. Another day I noticed a certain credit customer buying groceries. At night, on looking over the blotter, I found that the clerk had forgotten to make any entry of it. This set me to thinking that the goods might often go out of the store in this way—without our ever getting a cent for them. One day we received a circular from someone in Dayton Ohio, advertising a machine which recorded money and sales in retail stores. The price was $ 100. We telegraphed for two of them, and when we saw them we were astonished at the cost. They were made mostly of wood, had no cash drawer, and were very crude (Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier). But we put them in the store, and, in spite of their deficiencies, at the end of twelve months we cleared $6,000.

Ritty's first factory in Dayton
Ritty’s first factory in Dayton

In late 1879 the Rittys established a small factory in Dayton to manufacture their cash registers (see the nearby photo). John Ritty was foreman, and factory staff numbered ten men. Since the first machines, that were launched to the market were largely constructed of wood, most of the employees were carpenters and cabinet makers, a trade which James Ritty had followed in the past (James Ritty had been a carpenter and a shingle maker before he opened his first saloon about 1868).

James Ritty launched the cash register business under the name of “James Ritty’s New Cash Register and Indicator”, but his company did not prosper. In the end of 1881, he became so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running two businesses (he still conducted the cafe which demanded the major part of his time), that he and his brother John decided to sold all his interests in the cash register business, including the original patent to Jacob H. Eckert of Cincinnati, a glass and silverware salesman, for only $1000. In 1882, James Ritty, together with John Birch, a machinist and brother-in-law of Jacob Eckert, applied for another patent for cash improved register (US271363), assigned to Eckert. The new register had a drawer and a bell that rang when the key was depressed and the drawer opened. The indicator showed the customer the amount registered on the sale. The proprietor was assured that the amount registered was placed in the cash drawer, and that the proper record would be made by the adding mechanism. Publicity joined with protection in safeguarding receipts.

A new company was established to manufacture and sell the first mechanical cash register—National Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio. Eckert soon realized that one man couldn’t do the job, from the standpoint of either time or money and organized a stock company, capitalized at $10000 and sold something less than half the shares to four other men (between them John Patterson and his brother Frank), keeping controlling interest. John Patterson became majority owner in 1884, and the company was renamed National Cash Register Company.

Despite of the fact, that did not derive much benefit from his invention, James Ritty was not resentful and maintained most friendly relations with John Patterson and his brother Frank, who many times invited Ritty to attend various NCR meetings and conferences and admitted his pioneering role.

Patterson formed National Cash Register Company (NCR) into one of the first modern US companies, introducing new, aggressive sales methods and business techniques (although in 1912, the company was found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. and Patterson, Thomas J. Watson (the future president of IBM), and 26 other NCR managers were convicted for illegal anti-competitive sales practices and were sentenced to one year of imprisonment.) Patterson established the first sales training school in 1893, and introduced a comprehensive social welfare program for his factory workers. NCR had a glorious history and survived up to our time.

Biography of James Ritty

James Jacob Ritty was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 29 October 1836, in the family of Leger (Ledger) Ritty (1792-1869) and Mary Ann Ritty (1800-1880). The family already had three boys: Sebastian (1827-1891), Peter (1831-1888), and John (1834-1913), and there will be another boy after James (Joseph, who was killed in an accident when still a youth), and a daughter (probably adopted) Louise (born 1853).

Leger and Mary Ann Ritty were emigrants from the German-French area of Alsace-Lorraine (they were from German speaking part). Leger was born on 1 April 1792, and in 1819 entered the army, where he served for 8 years. In 1828 Leger with his wife Mary and just born son Sebastian and several friends emigrated to America, in order to seek a home in the new world. They settled initially for a year in Philadelphia, then in Pittsburg, where the family was reduced to poverty by Leger’s drunkenness and protracted sickness.

In 1833 Leger turned to God, refused drinking and purged from his sins and diseases removed to Ohio (initially to Cincinnati), where he worked as a colporteur, and later built up a considerable practice as a botanic physician (known as “Dr” Ritty), or dispenser of herb drugs, for the rest of his life. Leger was a strong man, but on 21 May 1869, he became so much depressed in spirits, complaining of asthma, erysipelas and other diseases, that he shoot himself through the heart with his large sized Smith & Wesson revolver.

In 1840 Ritty family moved from Cincinnati to Dayton, Ohio, where James attended the grade schools and the high school. He even went to medical college for a time, to study medicine, but with the American Civil War’s outbreak in early 1861, he left the college and enlisted in the Fourth Ohio Volunteer Cavalry as a first lieutenant. He served honorably for three years, leaving the Union Army in 1864, having attained the rank of captain.

After the army James didn’t return to medicine (probably by financial reasons), but worked some time as a carpenter and a shingle maker (as his brothers John and Peter), and in 1868 he opened his first saloon at 5 Market St. in Dayton. In 1871 Ritty opened another restaurant and saloon, then a wine house and saloon, and then was a wholesale and retailer dealer in whiskies, wines and cigars.

In 1877 he was already owner of James R. Ritty’s Empire Saloon (In the same year, his brothers John and Peter opened their own restaurant and saloon not far from James’ Empire Saloon). It was about this time, according to legend, that to his head came a business problem, which will make him famous, creating the first cash register.

The family vault of James Ritty at Dayton's Woodland Cemetery
The family vault of James Ritty at Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery

An open-minded and intelligent man, James (better known as “Jake”) Ritty was a good mixer and a man about town. He was of medium height, stocky build, with alert eyes and a drooping moustache, and was invariably well turned out, sporting an elegant silk hat.

James Ritty married in 1861 to Susanna M. Norris (1844-1924) from Dayton.

In early 1900s James Ritty retired from the bar business. He died of heart trouble in his downtown Dayton Arcade residence on 29 March 1918, and was entombed with his wife Susanna and his brother John in his family vault at Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery (see the nearby image).

Milton Hinkle

In 1877 Milton W. Hinkle of Memphis, Tennessee, invented a simple adding device, which he patented on 5 March 1878 (US patent Nr. 200911). The machine was somewhat similar to the earlier devices of his compatriots Jabez Burns, John Ballou, Joseph Harris, and Milton Jeffers. Only the patent model of the device survived to our time and is kept now in the collection of National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Milton Hinkle's adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
Milton Hinkle’s adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The object of the invention is to furnish an improved machine for use in adding columns of figures and in keeping the tally of things
to be counted, which shall be simple in construction and accurate in operation, and which may be operated very rapidly.

The patent model (see the nearby image) has wooden sides and a brass strip that covers the front, bottom, and back. The top of the instrument is curved at the front to the shape of two wheels that rotate inside it. A strip of wood between the wheels has the digits from 1 to 9 marked on it. Each wheel has the digits from 0 to 9 marked on it three times. A pin protrudes from the wheel between each digit, and each tenth pin is slightly longer than the others. The spacing of the digits is the same as that on the case. The large wheels are linked to two smaller toothed wheels at the back of the instrument. These smaller wheels are marked with the numbers from 0 to 13, and are meant to move forward every time the large wheel passes a longer “10” pin, recording numbers that should be carried. These very simple adding device even doesn’t have separate wheels for registering results.

The operator places his finger upon the pin of the wheel (marked B on the patent drawing) opposite the index-number representing the figure to be added, and turning the said wheel until his finger strikes the finger-plate, all the wheels being adjusted before beginning with their zeroes in the first place above the plates D E.

Almost nothing is known for the inventor. Milton Washington Hinkle Jr. was born on 8 January 1848, in Carrollton, Carroll County, Kentucky. He was a son of Milton Washington Hinkle (born 1810) from Louisville, KY, a steamboat owner on the Ohio river.

Borland and Hoffmann

In 1878 William Patterson Borland, native of Baltimore, who lived in Leavenworth, Kansas, and Herman Hoffman, a watchmaker in Leavenworth, patented a one-column key adder (see US patent 205993), similar to the earlier Adder of Marshall Cram and to the later Centigraph of Arthur Shattuck.

The patent drawing of adding machine of Borland and Hoffmann
The patent drawing of adding machine of Borland and Hoffmann

Besides the patent, nothing survived from this device, so obviously it remained only on paper and had not been implemented in practice. Let’s examine the mechanism of the device, using the patent drawing (see the nearby drawing).

The object of the invention is to furnish an improved machine which shall be so constructed as to enable the user to add up a column of figures quickly and accurately, and without it being necessary for him to look at the machine, so that no time may be lost in looking from his machine to the column of figures to be added, and which at the same time shall be simple in construction, accurate in operation, and may be used with great

The units and tens of the numbers added are indicated by the pointer (marked E on the patent drawing), and the hundreds are indicated by the pointer C’.

The levers O are raised into their normal position after being lowered by the operator by means of springs G’ attached to the base A, and which rest against the lower side of the levers O. As the levers O are raised by the springs G’ they strike against a pad, H’, of rubber or other suitable material, attached to a bar of the keyboard frame, so as to prevent any jar or noise when the said levers return to their places after being operated.

Biography of Borland and Hoffmann

Almost nothing is known for Herman A. Hoffmann—he was a local watchmaker in Leavenworth and died on 13 October 1889. However, for the other inventor—William Borland, there is some information.

William Patterson Borland was born on 27 February 1827 in Baltimore, to Thomas Borland and Catherine Ogle. Thomas Borland was a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, who came to Baltimore from the north of Ireland about 1800 and was naturalized in 1805. He came to USA on the death of his parents and was adopted by his mother’s brother, William Patterson, a super-cargo merchant of Baltimore, owning a line of sailing vessels and trading in the East Indies, dealing principally in tea, sugar, spices and molasses. Thomas Borland later became a partner in the business, the firm being Patterson and Borland. Patterson Park in Baltimore was named for this William Patterson, but his chief claim to fame is that he was the father of Elizabeth, “Glorious Betsy”, who married Jerome Bonaparte.

William Patterson Borland, Jr. (1867-1919)
William Patterson Borland, Jr. (1867-1919)

In 1818 Thomas Borland married Catherine Hall Ogle of Cecile County, Maryland (Ogle family were early settlers of Maryland, and had in it several Revolutionary soldiers). They had two sons, Thomas Borland and William Patterson Borland.

Thomas died young, while William Patterson, our hero, worked as a merchant in Benton County, Lindsey Township, Missouri, in early 1850s and married Elizabeth Hasson, also of Baltimore, in 1856. They moved to Warsaw, Missouri, where William served as a cashier in Mechanics Bank of St. Louis, Warsaw branch. In 1858 they moved again, this time to Leavenworth, Kansas (then it was a separate town, but now is part of the Kansas City metropolitan area), where they lived until 1880, when moved to Kansas city. They had five children—Thomas (1857-1892), Mary, Katharine, Elizabeth (1862-1941) and William Patterson Borland, Jr. (1867-1919) (who became a famous US Congressman from Missouri, see the nearby photo).

William Patterson Borland died on 29 October 1885 in Leavenworth, Kansas, and was buried at the local Mount Muncie Cemetery.