Borland and Hoffmann

In 1878 William Patterson Borland, a 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 about 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 the USA after 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 the 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.