William Howland

On 23 April 1881, William M. Howland (1843-1901), an inventor and carriage maker from Topsham, Sagadahoc County, Maine, USA, applied for a patent for an adding machine. The patent (see US patent Nr. 250541) was granted on 6 December of the same year. Besides the patent application, nothing is known about the adding device of Howland, so most probably it remained only on paper and has not been implemented in practice.

US patent Nr. 250541 drawing
US patent Nr. 250541 of William M. Howland, the patent drawing

The adding machine of Howland was a simple lever-operated device, consisting of a series of numbered disks arranged on a shaft and having interlocking pawls. It has nothing new in the area, but let’s examine the operation of this adding machine, using the drawing from the patent application (see the nearby image).

For use, the wheels are set with a zero on each at the slot between the top of the apron and bar I, and the handles of the levers at the top of the apron-slots. The handle of the unit wheel is brought down to the number on its slot corresponding with the unit of the first number of those to be added. By this, the pawl on this handle turns the wheel as many teeth as units. Then the handle of the tens-wheel is worked the same way, and so on for the first number. For the next number, the handles are returned and the operation continued, and so on for all the numbers which are to be calculated. After all are calculated, the number which is under the slot is the sum of the numbers.

It will be seen that when the number of any two or more digits in order of the same denomination goes over nine it causes the next wheel to be turned one tooth by reason of the engagement of one of the hooks on the first wheel.

Instead of using the drag-pawl g’ on the levers D the push-pawl z may be used.

Biography of William Howland

Stockbridge Howland (1801-1880)
Stockbridge Howland (1801-1883)

William M. Howland was born in November 1843 in Topsham, Sagadahoc County, Maine. He was the son of Abraham Howland (1794-1880) and Lydia Waite (Kidder) Howland (1802-1890), who married in 1822. Besides William, Abraham and Lydia had: Sarah Ann (1823–1908), Arabella R. (1825–1845), and James E. (1844–1892). Abraham had a younger brother, Stockbridge Howland (1801-1883, see the nearby image), who became a known local civil engineer and Adventist preacher.

Besides the above-mentioned adding machine William Howland patented the bench dog in USA and Canada with his brother James E. He patented also an apple peeler in 1864, a machine for reducing wood to pulp (1881), and together with his cousin George L. Howland (born 1833)—a hoisting apparatus (derrick) (invented in 1867, patented in 1871). In 1872, Howland Brothers (William and James) established a shop for the manufacture of “Howland’s Patent Car Derrick,” which proved to be a popular item for the railroads.

William Howland married his cousin Mary Kendall and they had a daughter—Eunice Howland Merryman (1877-1898).

William Howland died on 22 Apr 1901 in Topsham.