Brainard Smith

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.

In May and June 1886, Brainard Fowler Smith, a merchant from Sacramento, California, filed applications for two patents for keyboard-driven adding machines. The patents (US360118 and US363972) had been granted the next year (March and May 1887), as the second patent (US363972) was granted to Brainard Smith and Arthur Shattuck, and was implemented later with some modifications in the famous keyboard adder Centigraph (Smith and Shattuck must have been friends not only because of this joint patent but also because both of them used to work for California state’s prison administration. Smith was a secretary from 1888 until 1908, while Shattuck was a director in the 1890s.)

Let’s examine the operation of the first adding machine of Brainard F. Smith, using the patent drawing (see the image below).

By pressing down any of the keys the yoke (E) is elevated at its lower end, thus depressing the extended upper end of one of the arms (e), whereby the pawl (F), which is mounted upon it, engages the ratchet wheel (d) and turns the disk or wheel (D) forward. The disk or wheel (D) is provided on its periphery with the integers or digits from zero up, and with several series of these around the entire circumference.

The patent drawing of first adding machine of Smith's (perspective view)
The patent drawing of the first adding machine of Smith’s (perspective view)

It is the intention in this machine to make one of the keys turn the disk or wheel (D) one space or number, another key to turn it two spaces, another three, and so on, according to the number of keys; and as it has been shown five here, it is obvious that the fifth key will turn the wheel or disk five spaces or numbers. The key on the extreme right is here shown as the unit-key, while the one on the extreme left is the 5-key.

It is obvious, that instead of having five keys, we could have nine, here five keys are used for the purpose of convenience, as it is easier to operate them with the fingers of one hand, and the same result can be obtained by touching two of the keys consecutively to form whatever number above 5 which may be before the operator. If any number up to 5 is to be added, a single key corresponding to that number is operated. For a 6, the 5 and the 1 may be operated consecutively, or the 3-key may be operated twice, or the 4-key and the 2-key may be operated consecutively, according to the will of the operator.

The patent drawing of first adding machine of Brainard Smith (side view and upper view)
The patent drawing of first machine of Brainard Smith (side view and upper view)

Let’s see an example to add:
3 6 7
5 8 4
9 7 1

Both wheels are set at 0. First press the 1-key, whereby the figure 1 on the disk D appears at the aperture in the casing. Then operate the 4-key, whereby figure 5 appears. Now for the 7, you touch consecutively the 5-key and the 2-key, whereby figure 2 appears at the aperture over the wheel (D), and figure 1 appears at the aperture over the wheel or disk C, which represents the tens, the movement of the wheel (C) being accomplished by one of the pins d’ on the wheel (D) coming in contact with the arm (l’) of the escapement-pawl and momentarily relieving said pawl from its engagement, whereby the spring (C’) of the wheel (C) throws it forward one space, when it is caught by said pawl again. You now write down the 2 under the first column and have the 1 to carry; but you have first, before proceeding to add the second column, to adjust both wheels back to 0. I do this by touching enough of the keys to cause the wheel (D) to turn to the next 0, and then, with the thumb pressing upon the milled rim of the flange (c) of the wheel (C), turning said wheel back to 0. Having now 1 to carry, you touch the 1-key and proceed with the second column, thus: For the 7, the 5 and the 2-key; for the 8, the 5 and the 3-key; for the 8, the 5 and the 1-key, consecutively, which will give us the result at the two apertures the figures 22. You now write down the 2 and again adjust the machine, as before described, by bringing both wheels back to 0. Having 2 to carry, you touch the 2-key, and then proceed with the last column. You touch the 5 and the 4 for figure 9, then the 5, and next the 3, so that you get the figures 19 appearing at the apertures in the casing, which figures you set in proper place for the result.

Certainly, adding machines like this are of little practical use, because they needed many manual operations for resetting calculating wheels and writing down the intermediate results. The later Centigraph of Shattuck will be the first successful machine of this type, as it will avoid the above-mentioned manual operations.

Biography of Brainard Smith

Brainard Fowler Smith was born in Madison, Indiana, on 4 July 1849, to Samuel Fowler Smith (1808-1879), a merchant, and Belvidere Roberts (1819-1866), a Yankee school teacher from Vermont.

Brainard Fowler Smith (1849-1908)
Samuel Fowler Smith (1808-1879)

Samuel Fowler Smith (see the nearby photo from the 1870s) was a remarkable man. Born in the Yorkshire village of Walton, England, on 22 Dec. 1808, in 1835 he decided to follow his two elder brothers Benjamin and John, who already immigrated to the US and landed in New York on 3 Nov. 1835. Spending some time working as a shoemaker (in England he used to work in a shoe shop and as shoemaker) in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then seeing his relatives, he settled in Madison, Indiana, and set up his own shoe business, and a choir and singing school. In 1844 he married the 24-year-old Vermont-born Belvidere Roberts, and soon they had three children, but only one of them, Brainard, survived to adulthood, moreover with everlasting health problems. Later (in 1851) they had another son, Charles Roberts Smith, and a daughter.

The family remained in Madison until 1855 when Smith moved to Indianapolis to enter a partnership with Judson Ostgood to make lasts and pegs for the shoemaking industry. Later they established a highly successful business for carriage wheels, and the establishment was at that time the largest factory in the West. After the death of his wife in 1866, Smith married the young Lizzie Sinclair and they had one child. Samuel Smith died on 12 March 1879.

In 1862 Brainard Smith obtained one year of his preparatory education at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, of which his uncle, Rev. Henry Harvey Curtis, was president. His second collegiate year was taken at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana. He entered the freshman class at Yale College in 1866, but upon the death of his mother, he returned home and afterward finished his collegiate course at Indianapolis.

After graduating Brainard Smith entered the office of his father’s factory and remained there until the ensuing autumn. Hearing a great deal about California, his curiosity was excited to spend a winter here. Carrying out his contemplated program, he liked the climate so well that he has ever since remained here. In 1871 he came to Sacramento with E. E. Ames, who was an agent for the Studebaker wagons and for his father’s patent wheels, and remained with him first as a commercial traveler and afterward as business manager until 1879 when he went to San Francisco to assume the management of a large agricultural house there.

Filling that position until 1883, Smith returned to Sacramento and opened a house of his own, under the company name of Brainard F. Smith & Co., but several years later he accepted a government position. Since 2 August 1888, Smith has been secretary of the Folsom State Prison, and on 2 May 1889, he was elected the secretary of the Preston School of Industry, to be located in Amador County. He has taken an active interest in politics as a Republican, having identified himself with almost every political movement. Smith remained in the office of Folsom Prison and then in San Quentin Prison until his death in 1908.

Brainard Fowler Smith was scarcely five feet in height, one leg much shorter than the other, and he walked with two canes, rarely resorting to the use of crutches. He at all times was one of the best-dressed men in the community and always wore a silk hat. Deformed and crippled as he was, no one ever heard him murmur or complain, and he was the life of every gathering of which he was a member. He wore diamonds, and always had money. With the latter, he was very liberal and did much for charity. His poor little emaciated and distorted frame encased a heart as big as that of a bullock, and he had a brain and intellect equal to that of most men.

Brainard Smith married Mattie S. Pinkham of San Francisco on 5 October 1892, in San Francisco. They had one son, Caryl Leigh Smith (born 29 Jan. 1894—died 2 Sep. 1959).

Besides the two patents for adding machines from 1886 and 1887, Brainard Smith had another patent for a pipe for smoking (US596832) from 1898.

Brainard Smith was a member of Sacramento Masonic Lodge No. 6 Order of Elks.

Brainard Fowler Smith died on 30 August 1908, in San Quentin, California.