George Calder

In 1895 George Calder Jr. (1830-1897), a prominent businessman, self-taught mechanical genius, and inventor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, obtained a patent for cash register and indicator (US patent No. 543980). Except for the patent application, nothing is known about the calculating device of Calder, so obviously it remained only on paper and had not been implemented in practice. In fact, Calder tried to arrange the manufacture of his patented cash register, but without success.

The patent drawing of George Calder's cash register
The patent drawing of George Calder’s cash register

Let’s examine in short the calculating machine of George Calder, using the patent drawing from US543980 (see the nearby image).

The numeral wheels are four in number and correspond to units, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

The mechanism can be used for registering and adding pounds, shillings, and pence, or any denominations of currency or measure having a determinate relative value, by suitably engaging the teeth in the various gears and otherwise modifying the parts in the usual manner.

If the units-wheel (marked with 18 on the patent drawing) has been rotated three times, the digit 3 will be indicated on the tens-wheel 40′, said wheel having been moved three times by three complete rotations of shaft 24 and wheel 40, each movement of the wheel (marked with 40′) being the tenth of a rotation. If, however, tens are to be indicated by the second or tens wheel 18—for example, three dimes—the second key and lever 24 and the corresponding wheel 18 will be moved, which will have the effect of moving the second shaft 34 and numeral-wheel 40′ three-tenths of a rotation and so as to indicate 3, and this is effected without the intermediate agency of the first shaft 34 and its operating-bar.

At the end of the business day or at any time desired the several numeral wheels can be set at zero by means of the shafts 34, which project through plate 39′ for the purpose.

Biography of George Calder

George (Edward) Calder Jr. was born on 28 May 1830, in Boston, Massachusetts, as the oldest son of George Calder and Martha Ann Calder (born Leland).

George Calder Sr. (born on 29 November 1799, in Gloucester, Essex, MA) was a prominent Lancaster businessman, who had charge of and ran steamboats from Lancaster to Philadelphia in the 1840s and later was a coal merchant. He was the 4th generation heir of Dr. Robert Calder (1692-1746), born in Scotland, who emigrated to America in 1710 and was a surgeon at the Royal Navy. George Calder Sr. died on 21 July 1884, in Lancaster.

On 6 December 1827, in New York, George Calder Sr. married the young Martha Ann Leland (born on 15 April 1809, in Boston, MA, died 4 August 1903, in Lancaster), daughter of Lewis Leland and Martha (Patty) Smith. The family had (besides George Jr.) three daughters—Martha Ann (1828-1875), Mary (b. 1832), Euphrasia Emiline (1836-1911), and four younger sons—William (1831-1847), Francis Leland (1838-1913), Lewis Augustus (1840-1841), and Lewis H. (1843-1866).

George Calder Jr. moved with his parents to New York when a child, afterward in the late 1830s for several years they moved to Montevideo, South America, before returning in 1840 to the USA and settling in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When only eighteen years old George went to California in the late 1840s and accumulated a small fortune. In the early 1850s, he worked as a clerk in California and came back to Lancaster around 1852, and has since resided there.

In 1862 George Calder enrolled 79th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and took part in the Civil War.

In the late 1850s, George Calder was for several years in the employ of his father in his steamboats and coal business, before starting his own business. In 1866 he built (together with William Martin Wiley(1825-1874), another local businessman) a cotton mill in Lancaster and continued the business until 1889. In 1892 Calder started another cotton mill in Lancaster. He was also the owner of a cotton mill in Harrisburg, which he operated for ten years. He was for fifteen years the proprietor of a dye house, which was operated in connection with his mills.

George Calder was a mechanical genius, and besides the above-mentioned patent for calculating machine, he was a holder of several patents for matrix-making machines. He had the first telephone in Lancaster.

George Calder was engaged in charity, he was on the Board of Trustees of the Yeates School in Lancaster (institution for education of poor young men for the ministry), and in 1859 one of the incorporators of the Home for Friendless Children.

George Calder married Mary Maris Hurford, daughter of Lewis Hurford (1784–1862) and Sarah Downing Couch (1811–1900), on 28 April 1863, in Lancaster, Penn. Mary Maris was born on 23 May 1838 in Lancaster and died on 21 April 1928. They had six children: Ellen Ellery (1865-1902), George Hurford (1867-1935), William Ellery (1870-1920), Mary Hurford (1872-1958), Edward (1875-1944), and Stewart Wilson (1878-1920).

George Calder Jr. died at age 66 at his residence, No. 221 East Orange Street in Lancaster on 11 March 1897. The cause of death was dropsy and kidney trouble. He was buried at Woodward Hill Cemetery.