William Haines

In 1849, William M. Haines, a clerk from Rochester, New York, patented a simple mechanical calculator (US patent No. 6403). The patent model of the device (up to 1880, the US Patent Office required inventors to submit a model with their patent application) is still preserved in the National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C. (see the image below). This is the only survived device and it obviously never became popular.

The mechanical calculator of William Haines (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The mechanical calculator of William Haines (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

The mechanical calculator of William Haines is a wood and brass adding and subtracting device with overall measurements: 3 cm x 15.3 cm x 14.2 cm. It has a wooden base, a circular metal mechanism, and a single digit mechanical carry, implemented by means of an axle.

At the center of the machine is a brass disc, having a hundred circular holes around the outside. Around it is a slightly elevated stationary circle or ring, with larger digits from 1 to 9 engraved around it, representing 10, 20, etc., through 90. Between each of these numbers, smaller digits from 1 up to 9 are engraved. There is a stop at 0.

The mechanical calculator of William Haines (the patent drawing)
The mechanical calculator of William Haines (the patent drawing)

Biography of William Haines

William M. Haines was born on 6 Sep 1811, in New York, to James Haines (1777-1865), and Phebe (Tucker) Haines (1783-1837). James and Phebe married in 1799 and had eight children, but only six of them survived to adulthood—four boys: Nathan Reynolds (1801–1866), B. David (1805-1883), Isaac T. (1810-1886), and William М. (1811-1870), and two girls: Sarah Ann (1816–1873), and Phebe Ann (1823–1855).

Dr. B. David Haines (1805-1883)
Dr. B. David Haines (1805-1883)

James Haines was a farmer in Cortlandt, Westchester County, N. Y., but preached the gospel to some extent after moving to Onondaga Co. in middle 1810s. In 1821 he removed with his family to Rapids, N. Y., then to Rochester, Monroe Co., N. Y., where he started business as a cooper.

We only know for William’s occupation that in 1840s he was employed as clerk in a variety store in Rochester. In 1850s he moved to Leonidas, St. Joseph Co., Michigan, where one of his elder brothers—Dr. B. David Haines (William’s brothers David (see the nearby image) and Isaac were witnesses of his patent for calculator), bought a farm several years earlier.

William Haines married to Mary Haines (1834–1891), but they had no children.

William Haines died on 22 Nov 1870 (aged 59), in Leonidas, St. Joseph County, Michigan.