Arthur Shattuck

It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Arthur Ewing Shattuck (1854-1932)
Arthur E. Shattuck (1854-1932)

At the beginning of the 1880s, the young county and court clerk of Sonoma, California, Arthur Ewing Shattuck (1854-1932), driven by the need to facilitate the tedious office calculation work, designed his first calculating device, which he patented in 1882. Later Shattuck became a holder of a total of five (four US and one Canadian) patents for calculating machines.

The first (№268135 from 1882) and second (№349459 from 1886) patents (received along with Charles Thorn Jr.) are for chain adders (one of many adding devices based on Abaque Rhabdologique of Claude Perrault), which remained on paper only and never reached the market.

The "wonderful adding machine" Centigraph, an advertisement from 1892
The ‘wonderful adding machine’ Centigraph, an advertisement from 1892

In May 1887 Shattuck got his third patent (№363972), this time along with Brainard Smith (who patented a similar calculating device only two months before) for a simple 5-key single-column adder (like other machines of this kind, it was intended to add a single digit at a time, i.e. the unit column is entered first, then the tens, the hundreds, the thousands, and so on, certainly a rather cumbersome task (as every partial sum had to be recorded on paper and the sum eventually performed), which greatly limits the usefulness of such devices), similar to the earlier adders of Marshall Cram and Lawrence Swem (Smith and Shattuck must have been friends not only because of this shared patent but also because both of them later became California state’s prison officers. Shattuck was a director in the 1890s, while Smith was a secretary from 1888 to 1908).

The Centigraph Adding Machine (© 2009 by Auction Team Breker, Cologne, Germany,
The Centigraph Adding Machine, front view (© 2009 by Auction Team Breker, Cologne, Germany,

Four years later (in 1891) Shattuck got his fourth US patent (№453778), for an improved version of the third patented device, which will be manufactured and sold in small quantities in the 1890s under the name Centigraph Adding Machine (called also Centigraphe and Centagraph) firstly by the company Centigraph Co. of New York (formed 1890), as later the rights to produce it were sold to the American Adding Machine Co. of Atlanta, Georgia. Centigraph was also reviewed and advertised in various periodicals in the US in the 1890s (see the upper ad from 1892).

The Centigraph Adding Machine is a metal device, mounted on a wooden base and case, with measurements (cm): length: 15.3, width: 20.6, height: 15.0.

The operation of the machine is as follows (see the lower patent drawing): Pressing the keys, the disk (plate) D is so turned, that through its aperture the ciphers are seen. For the digits over five two keys (marked with F) must be pressed simultaneously (for instance for 6, keys 5 and 1 must be pressed), whereupon plate C moves one number to the right, and plate D moves five numbers to the left, and in the aperture figure 6 is seen. The plate can counter to 99, but there is a separate 5 positional pointer for hundreds, which allows the sum to reach 599.

The patent drawing of Centigraph Adding Machine
The patent drawing of Centigraph Adding Machine

The keys 1, 2, 3, and 4 actuate pawls on a disc, which carries 100 notches in its circumference, and the 5 key actuates a pawl on a parallel and similar disc with 20 notches in its circumference. The two discs (plates) travel round in opposite directions. The discs are mounted on the same axis, and are connected together solely by a coiled spring round that axis. The 100-notch disc carries the numbers 1-99 and the total added together appears through a square hole in the 20-notch disc. There is a spiral groove in the 100-notch disc, in which travels a pin carried at the end of a pointer pivoted to the 20-notch disc. This pointer indicates the hundreds up to 500. A milled handle attached to the center of the 20-notch disc is used for bringing the disc to zero, and it winds up the spring in the operation.

The Centigraph Adding Machine, back view (© 2009 by Auction Team Breker, Cologne, Germany,
The Centigraph Adding Machine, back view (© 2009 by Auction Team Breker, Cologne, Germany,

Biography of Arthur E. Shattuck

Arthur Ewing Shattuck was born on 16 May 1854, in Petaluma, Sonoma, California, as the first child (of six) of Francis (Frank) William Shattuck (1828-1893) and Aletha Olivia (Olive) Ewing-Shattuck (1834-1882).

Judge David Olcott Shattuck (1800-1892), the founder of California branch of the Shattucks
Judge David Olcott Shattuck (1800-1892), the founder of California branch of the Shattucks

Shattuck was one of the oldest families in America, which ancestry can be traced back to William Shattuck (1622-1672), the pilgrim founder of Shattucks in America, who came to the New World probably in 1639 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts colony. William Shattuck was the 6th great-grandfather of Arthur Ewing Shattuck.

Francis (nickname Frank) William Shattuck was born on 15 February 1828, in Dupin County, North Carolina, and came to California along with his family in 1849, when the discovery of gold was drawing to this section of the US men from all parts of the country. He was located in Petaluma, San Francisco area, and became a lawyer, just like his father David Olcott Shattuck (1800-1892), an eminent lawyer and the first judge of the superior court of San Francisco. Frank Shattuck practiced law for many years, serving as a notary and County Judge of Sonoma county.

Frank Shattuck married Aletha Olivia “Olive” Ewing (born November 1834 in Lexington, Missouri – died 29 August 1882 in Petaluma, California) on 15 Jun 1853, in Petaluma (Sonoma Co., CA), and the next year was born their first child, Arthur Ewing. The family had two sons and four daughters: Arthur Ewing (1854-1932), William Finis (1856-1907), Rena (1858-1942), Frank Olivia (1860-1935), Mattie Newell (1862-1938), and Aletha Lee (1864-1938).

Arthur Ewing Shattuck acquired his early education in the public and private schools of Petaluma, California, and at the age of sixteen put aside his textbooks to enter upon a business career. When he was eighteen years of age he was appointed deputy county auditor, but on account of his youth, he retired from public office until he had attained his majority, when he was appointed deputy county clerk of Sonoma county and served in Judge Temple’s court for a number of years. It seems during his service as a county and court clerk in the 1880s Shattuck invented his adding devices, the object of this article.

Arthur Ewing Shattuck (1854-1932) and his wife Margaret (Sharp) (1871-1965)
Arthur Ewing Shattuck (1854-1932) and his wife Margaret (1871-1965)

Subsequently, Arthur Ewing Shattuck became a member of the editorial staff of the Santa Rosa Democrat, a daily newspaper, then published by Thomas Larkin Thompson (1838–1898), who was later appointed to the position of United States minister to Brazil. When in 1892 Thompson became secretary of state of California, he appointed Shattuck as his assistant, and the latter largely had the management of the office until he resigned in 1894 in order to devote his attention to private business interests in San Francisco. Arthur Shattuck was appointed to the position of state’s prison director, and upon the expiration of his term, he joined his brother William Finis in a manufacturing enterprise in San Francisco under the firm name of the Pacific States Type Foundry, of which he was secretary/treasurer and then president for ten years.

On 4 Dec. 1895 Arthur Shattuck married Margaret Emily Sharp (1871-1965), a native of Sacramento, California. They had two daughters, Margaret Ledeane (1897-1983) and Kathryn Ann Shattuck-Van Brunt (1901-1994).

Arthur Ewing Shattuck died in 1932 in San Francisco.