Ezra Witter

Ezra Edgar Witter (1855-1939), a farmer from Milford Center, Ohio, was a holder of many (at least 15) US and Canadian patents between 1888 and 1920 for various (mostly agricultural) devices, for example, machines for making fences, a marker for corn planters, corn harvesters, lubricator, match safe, hinge, and others. Interestingly for us, one of the patents of Ezra Witter was for an adding machine (patent Nr. 423364 from 1890). On 22 May 1890, Witter received a Canadian patent (CA34392) for the same device.

Ezra Witter's patent drawing (patent Nr. 423364)
Ezra Witter’s patent drawing (patent Nr. 423364, 11 March 1890)

The adding machine of Ezra Edgar Witter (see the nearby patent drawing from Nr. 423364) is a simple and small one-column keyboard adder (i.e. to be used for adding one-digit numbers), similar to the earlier device of Thomas Hill. The witnesses of the patent were George Leggate, a grain dealer and miller, and Joseph Culbertson, a prosperous local farmer.

Witter’s adder was designed as a cheap and portable device, provided with a series of keys that operate through a suitable mechanism upon counting wheels that register the amount added up. The invention has for its object the production of a device that may be carried in the pocket and differs from others in use in not being cumbersome and expensive. It has nine key-levers, placed in two vertical rows, the upper ends of which are screw-threaded and project through openings in the keyboard. The device has a pair of registering wheels: units-and-tens wheel, and hundreds-wheel. The tens-carry mechanism consists of a pin, a lever engaged by said pin and having a recess, a hook on the lever engaged by said pin below the recess, and a pawl actuated by the lever, substantially as set forth.

Biography of Ezra Witter

Elijah Witter III (b. 27 Mar. 1807 in Ontario County, N. Y.)
Elijah Martin Witter III (1807-1886)

Ezra Edgar Witter was born on 18 February 1855, on the farm of his father in Union, Ohio. He was the baby of the family of Elijah Witter III (b. 27 Mar. 1807 in Geneva, Ontario, New York—died 8 Feb. 1886 in Milford Center, Ohio), a farmer and deacon of the local Baptist church in Milford Center, and Amy Ann Witter, nee Ballou (b. 1811 in Massachusetts–d. 27 March 1883 in Milford Center).

Elijah Martin Witter III (see the nearby portrait) (the son of Elijah Witter (1775–1837) and Eunice Barden Witter (1784–1864)) was a descendant 6th generation of the early settler William Witter, who came to America in 1640 with his family and settled at Lynn, Mass. In 1829 Elijah Witter moved with a rifle in his hand and a pack on his back from his home in Ontario, New York, to Union, Ohio, where in 1830 he married Amy Ann Ballou, a daughter of Martin Ballou (1781-1869, a farmer) and Elizabeth (Betsey) Ballou, nee Lyon (1779-1851). Elijah was the owner of two farms in Ohio (500 acres in Union County and 600 acres in Madison County).

Elijah and Amy Witter had ten children—seven boys: Elijah Martin (1832-1890), Henry Harrison (1836-1913), Albert Barden (1840-1906), Alfred Amos (1843-1883), David William (1845-1848), Julius Marvin (1848-1856), and our hero Ezra Edgar (1855-1939), and three daughters: Lucy Ann (1831-1918), Eunice Betsey (b. 1834), and Maria Louisa (1851-1871).

In the middle 1870s, Ezra Witter studied classical studies at Denison University, Granville, Ohio (interestingly, at other times pupils of the same small college were some other inventors of calculating machines, like Orlando Lane Castle and George Stibitz).

After graduating from Denison University in the late 1870s, Ezra Edgar Witter returned to Milford Center and was engaged in his father’s farms. On 10 May 1880, Ezra Witter married Sarah Elizabeth Wolfe (b. 1 April 1854 in Union, OH—died 1920). They had two daughters: Leona Pauline (1880-1921), and Alva Betty (1882-1951), and two sons: Chester Warren Edison (1884-1975), and Guy M. (b. 1886).

The last decades of his life Ezra Witter spent in Lake County, Illinois, with the family of his daughter, Leona Dreyer (Witter). Ezra Edgar Witter died on 2 March 1939, in Zion, Lake County, Illinois, and was buried in the Lake Mound Cemetery, Zion.