Adam Hoch

Science can amuse and fascinate us all, but it is engineering that changes the world.
Isaac Asimov

Adam Hoch (1856-1926)
Adam Hoch (1856-1926)

The American engineer Adam Hoch (1856-1926) was a prolific inventor of calculating machines and devices (e.g. adding attachments for type-writing machines) from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He was a holder of several dozens of patents in this area from the USA, Canada, Germany, France, and Great Britain.

Some of the patents of Hoch (first application he filed in April 1898) have been assigned to and implemented by other businessmen and companies, but one of them,  the so-called Wendling-Hoch Machine, was put in production by his own company, Wendling-Hoch Adding Machine Company, which he incorporated in San Francisco, California, together with the prominent Californian businessman George Xavier Wendling, who obviously financed the venture.

Wendling-Hoch Machine was an adding and listing machine, introduced at the beginning of the 20th century. It seems it was manufactured in very small numbers by Wendling-Hoch Adding Machine Co. and by California Adding Machine Co. (San Francisco) because there is no survived to our time example.

Wendling-Hoch machine (patent drawing)
Wendling-Hoch machine (patent drawing)

Let’s examine one of the earliest patents for Wendling-Hoch Machine (see US patent Nr. 712795 from 4 November 1902).

The improvements involved in the contstruction of the machine relate more particularly to novel construction and combination of numeral printing-segments and selecting and setting mechanism controlled by a single set of ten finger-keys, by means of which the printing-segments brought into operation to print a row of figures to any required order are set to position to print and are afterward brought in contact with the paper to print the entire row at a single operation, together with a separate set or series of adding-wheels having also the function of printing-wheels to print the sum-total, and operating mechanism also controlled from the same finger-keys and actuated from the setting mechanism of the printing-segments to add one row of figures to another as they are printed; also, novel paper-controlling and type-inking devices for operating to ink the type-faces and bring the paper in working contact with the segments or the adding wheels at the proper times to print the rows of figures and afterward the total.

Biography of Adam Hoch

Della White (1860-1932), the wife of Adam Hoch
Della White (1860-1932), the wife of Adam Hoch

Adam Firma Hoch was born on 11 March 1856 in Millerstown, a small town in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Adam was a descendant of a well-known local business family. His grandfather, Jacob Hoch (1793-1871), a farmer, hops dealer, beer host, and beer brewer from Gönningen, Württemberg, Germany, emigrated to the New World in the late 1830s, where he established a planing mill and a farm. Jacob was followed in the late 1840s by his sons Jacob Martin (1818-1859), Georg Johann Martin (1820-1888), and Gottlieb (Gottlob) (1827-1878). Jacob Hoch died on 31 August 1871 in Millerstown.

Adam’s father—Gottlieb (Gottlob) Hoch, was born on 15 August 1827 in Gönningen, Tübingen, Württemberg, Germany. In 1850 he emigrated to the USA, where he joined his brother Georg Johann Martin, who in 1849 established a brewery in Millerstown, with another local businessman, Martin Reiber. In 1853, Martin Hoch left the brewery, in order to focus on other businesses (store and hotel), and Gottlob became the sole proprietor. For twenty-six years until his death he carried on this industry, erecting a new brewery. In the early 1850s, Gottlob married a local girl, Catharine (6 Dec 1831-18 May 1903) and they had five children: Anna Elizabeth (b. 1854), our hero Adam (1856-1926), Gottlob F. (1858-1859), Wilhelmina Philomena (b. 1861), and Heinrich Jacob (b. 1872). Gottlob Hoch died on 2 November 1878 in Millerstwon at age 51.

As a teenager, Adam was an apprentice in the brewery of his father. We know nothing about his life until the end of the 1890s when he appeared in the world of mechanical computers and proved himself as an excellent engineer.

In 1878 Adam Hoch married Della White (4 May 1860-10 Feb 1932) from Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. They had a daughter—Hazel Hilda (1887-1970), who married the engineer William Reagan Gorham and spent most of his life in Japan.

Adam Hoch died on 2 November 1926 (aged 70) in Los Angeles, California. Following his death, his remains were cremated and interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale.