Samuel Kelso

The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.
Douglas Horton

On 25 September 1866, Samuel J. Kelso of Detroit, Michigan, obtained a patent (US patent №58347, assigned to himself and James Edgar, of New York) for a ciphering machine. The calculating machine of Kelso was a simple adding device, quite similar to one of the machines of the French inventor David Roth. Besides the patent, nothing survived from this machine, so it obviously remained only on paper.

Samuel J. Kelso adding machine (the patent drawing)
Samuel J. Kelso adding machine (the patent drawing)

The calculator of Kelso (see the nearby patent drawing) can be used for adding, subtracting, and multiplying numbers of any desired magnitude with the greatest ease and facility. For adding and subtracting a series of wheels are used, which revolve on suitable pins projecting from the undersurface of a plate of sheet metal or other suitable material. Each of the sheets is provided with ten or a multiple of ten holes or cavities, and the face-plate is provided with semicircular slots, and with numbers from 1 to 9 on the convex sides of said slots for adding, and from 9 to 1 on the concave sides for subtracting, and a suitable carrying mechanism is combined with the wheels in such a manner that whenever one of the wheels is turned for ten holes or cavities the next succeeding wheel will turn for one cavity.

The carrying mechanism is composed of a series of compound pawls, each constructed of two rods, one of which is hinged to the undersurface of the face-plate, and provided with a nose or cam, to be acted upon by a pin projecting from the appropriate wheel, whereas the other rod is hinged, to the loose end of the first rod, and provided with a tooth, which catches in the next succeeding wheel in such a manner that whenever the pin of the first wheel passes the nose or cam of the main rod the second wheel is turned one tooth. A rod sliding in suitable sockets on the undersurface of the face-plate serves to throw the carrying mechanism out of gear so that each of the wheels can be turned independently of the others.

The multiplying device consists of a carriage, which is fitted on the case containing the adding and subtracting wheels.

By the application of the disengaging-slide q the operation of setting the wheels back to 0 is materially facilitated, and much time is saved in the operation of the machine.

Biography of Samuel J. Kelso

Samuel John Kelso was born in 1834 in Ireland (or Scotland), to Henry Kelso (b. 1800) and Charlotte L. Kelso (b. 1806). In the early 1850s, the Kelso family lived in Glasgow, Scotland, where Henry Kelso was a teacher, and Samuel used to work as an engineering clerk. Samuel had an elder brother, David (b. 1832), a younger sister, Charlotte (b. 1836), and a brother Josiah (b. 1841).

Samuel John Kelso immigrated to the New World in the late 1850s and settled initially in Quebec, Canada, then in Detroit, Michigan, USA. In the early 1860s, he worked as an agent of the Scottish Amicable Life Assurance Society in Chicoutimi, Saguenay, Canada. In 1867 Kelso married Hannah Roadhouse (1844-1895), a Canadian from Albion, Ontario, and they had six children: Elizabeth (1868-1920), Caroline V. (b. 1870), Belle Clara (1872-1934), Karl W. (b. 1873), Alfred N. (b. 1876), and Walter Rhodes (1882-1948).

Besides the above-mentioned patent for calculating device, Samuel John Kelso was a holder of another US patent (No. 477942 from 1892) for a slip-holder, as well as of a Canadian patent (No. 1121 from 1860) for an “aqua-gravitation engine”.

In 1862 Kelso established the English Commercial School, a High School for boys in Upper Town, Quebec, and in the same year he published a book—”Notes on the Saguenay for Tourists and Others”. In the 1870s and 1880s, he published several books with computation tables, and in 1885 he even founded a company for this purpose—Detroit Publishing Company.

Samuel John Kelso died in 1912 (aged 78) in Detroit and was buried in
Woodmere Cemetery.