Jacob Schnarrenberger

Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!
Alice in Wonderland

Schnarrenberger's first patent drawing
Schnarrenberger’s first patent drawing

The mechanical engineer Jacob Henry Schnarrenberger of Springfield and Greenfield, Ohio, was a holder of quite a few (at least seven) US patents for calculating machines from 1888 until 1891 (most of the patents are assigned to Thomas Reynolds—Superintendent of the office of Sandusky and Cincinnati Railroad Co. in Springfield, but one of the patents was granted to Jacob Schnarrenberger and his younger brother John Fred, one third assigned to Christian Funk): (US391430, US409710, US418930, US439431, US422040, US422545, and US465732).

The first two patents of Jacob Schnarrenberger are for multi-column keyboard adding machines, as the second was an improvement upon the first (see the nearby patent drawing from US391430), similar to the machine of his compatriot William Burroughs.

In a January 1890 article in the newspaper Macon Beacon, (Macon, Miss.), the first calculating machine of Schnarrenberger was described as …a wonderful mechanical calculator… which performs addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, not only in whole and decimal fractions, but also in common fractions. The machine is twelve inches in length, eight inches in width and seven inches high, and weights but eight pounds. It is made of rubber and steel. The inventor claims that it is the first and only machine ever invented which will perform multiplication, division or square root by simple operation of keys. Addition is performed by touching a key bearing the number to be added, and standing in the proper column to order all the columns being added at one time…

Schnarrenberger's patent drawing from US422545
Schnarrenberger’s patent drawing from US422545

Let’s give an example of the operation of the device, in which $101.04 is to be added to $95.00. The operator would strike key marked 4 at the extreme right hand, which would present 4 in the slot of the sight plate by moving the disk from 0 through four of the teeth G. 0 being the next figure, and there being no key designated or marked 0, he would not disturb the second disk to the left. In the third or hundreds order, he would strike the key marked 1, which would move the disk one space and present 1 instead of 0 in the slot.

The next figure being a 0, he would not disturb the fourth or thousands disk, for the above reason. The next figure being 1, he would strike the key marked 1 in the fifth order and move that disk one space, and present 1 in the slot. The figures would then read $101.01. Going on up the column in the example, he would observe 5.

The operator would then depress the key marked 5 in the third order, which would move the third disk five spaces, which, added to the one space already moved from 0, would present 6 in the slot. The next key to be depressed would be that marked 9 in the fourth order. This the operator would depress and move the fourth disk from 0 to 9. Thus $196.04, the sum of $101.04 and $95.00, is shown in the slot.

Simple Cash Register of Waddell
Simple Cash Register of Waddell

The next five patents of Schnarrenberger are for cash registers (although some of the cash registers are specified as adding and subtracting machines), on the second figure you can see the patent drawing from one of the patents (US pat. No. 422545). It is a combination of a registering mechanism with an indicating mechanism, the former involving the use of adding-disks and the latter that of rotatable indicating-wheels so arranged with an intermediate and operating mechanism that when the machine is actuated the amount of the purchase will be presented to view and such amount be shown by the adding-disks.

It seems Schnarrenberger’s design for cash register and indicator from his last patent (US pat. No. 465732) had been used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by firms associated with John Matthew Waddell (1853-1922), a manufacturer from Greenfield, Ohio, whose primary business was in the building of display cases and other business furniture, but he produced cash registers also (see nearby the Simple Cash Register of Waddell). This was the only practical implementation of Schnarrenberger’s massive efforts in the area of calculating devices, most probably ordered by his boss Thomas Reynolds, and other local businessmen.

Biography of Jacob Schnarrenberger

Jacob Schnarrenberger (1860-1934) in 1901
Jacob Schnarrenberger (1860-1934) in 1901

Jacob Henry Schnarrenberger was born on 12 January 1860 in Greenfield, Highland County, Ohio. He was the second child of Fred(e)rick Schnarrenberger (1834-1891), a German emigrant, and Sarah Jane Schnarrenberger, nee Geller (1832-1895), from Ohio. Fredrick Schnarrenberger was a farmer from Württemberg, Germany, who left Havre on the Ship Westmoreland and arrived in New York on 26 October 1854. In 1855 Fredrick Schnarrenberger established a farm in Madison Township, Highland County, Ohio, and in 1856 married Sarah Jane Geller. In 1857, their first child was born—a girl, Mary (1857-1939), followed by three boys: Jacob (b. 1860), John Fred (b. 1865), and Frank (b. 1878).

In 1880 US census records Jacob Schnarrenberger was specified as working in his father’s farm. In the early 1880s, he moved to Springfield, Ohio, and in the Springfield City Directory of 1889 Jacob Schnarrenberger and his brother John Fred were specified as living at 77 E. Liberty Str., Jacob working as a clerk at the superintendent’s office, while John was specified as a traveling agent. In the late 1880s, Jacob Schnarrenberger was employed as a draftsman in Superintendent Thomas Reynolds’ office of Sandusky and Cincinnati Railroad Co. in Springfield, that’s why his patents of this time are assigned (and witnessed by) one-half to Reynolds.

Grace (Schnarrenberger) Valentine (1884-1964)
Grace (Schnarrenberger) Valentine (1884-1964)

On 16 February 1882 Jacob married in Knox, Ohio, to Marilla Caroline Bevington (1860-1944) from Richland, Ohio. They had two children—Grace (Schnarrenberger) Valentine (1884-1964) and Spencer Salah (Schnarrenberger) Valentine (1885-1945). However, it seems in the late 1890s they divorced, because Marilla, Grace, and Spencer used the last name of Valentine (but not Schnarrenberger) from about 1900 onward. Interestingly, from some moment on, Jacob Schnarrenberger also changed his surname, and was known as “J. H. Snow”. Grace Valentine (see the nearby photo) became a good American actress, active on stage, screen, television, and radio from 1905 until the 1950s.

By 1891 Jacob Schnarrenberger returned for several years to Greenfield, Ohio, then moved to Indianapolis in 1895. There he founded a company—J. H. Snow and Co., and opened an office, first in the Cordova building and later in the Merchants National Bank building. Jacob Snow spent the rest of his life in Indianapolis, working as a patent attorney and engineering investment expert, and also as a designer, mechanical engineer, and manufacturer.

Besides the above-mentioned seven patents for calculating devices, Jacob (Schnarrenberger) Snow was a holder of quite a few other patents, for example: scoop-scale (US pat. No. 630942), cash-indicator (US675984), hydraulic motor (US689329), feed-trough for animals (US718287), burglar-alarm (US812892), door-stop (US1163478), barrel-support (US118701), etc.

Jacob Schnarrenberger died on 17 June 1934 at age 74 in Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, and was buried in Greenfield Cemetery, Greenfield, Ohio.