Calvin Holman

The American Calvin James Holman (1827-1892) of Toledo, Ohio, was a businessman and prolific inventor, a holder of numerous (at least 12) US patents for various devices, like sawing machine, vehicle spring, hand truck, sad iron, vehicle wheel, folding umbrella, lock for telescoping bags, etc. One of his patents (US patent Nr. 153826) from 1874 is for an adding machine. 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 images below).

The calculating machine of Calvin Holman (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The calculating machine of Calvin Holman (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C.)

The adding machine of Calvin James Holman is a brass and cloth device with overall measurements: 8 cm x 15.6 cm x 15.6 cm.

The round device has a cylindrical case that contains two concentric rotating rings (disks), each with 100 divisions (the digits from 0 to 99) engraved evenly around the edge. The outer, lower ring, with digits representing hundreds, is slightly larger than the other ring. Atop these is a metal disc with two adjacent windows, which make it possible to see the digits on the discs below. On top of this disc is a flat ring with four spokes that hold it together. This ring is the size of the lower ring, and it also has 100 divisions around the outside, which are engraved with numbers. There is a window at 1 that allows one to see the disc below. This spoke has a small knob for rotating it.

Rotating this ring so that a number on it is opposite a stop projecting over the ring adds the number to the total already indicated. When the inner makes one revolution, then a carry will be transferred to the outer ring by means of a spur-wheel. There is also a knob or handle on the bottom of the machine for advancing or zeroing the hundreds ring, as well as a strap of cloth for carrying it.

The calculating machine of Calvin Holman (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
The calculating machine of Calvin Holman (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D. C.)

Biography of Calvin Holman

Calvin James Holman was born on 30 October 1827, in Onondaga, New York. He was the son of Jonathan Holman, III (20 Apr 1790-15 Jun 1855) and Lucy “Susan” Townsend (Greenleaf) Holman (17 May 1797-21 Mar 1883), of Templeton, Mass. Calvin had five brothers and five sisters.

Calvin Holman married on 4 Sep 1852 to Adelia Adeline (Offensend) Holman (b. 1834 in Rutland, Vermont), and they had five children: Emma “Della” Adel (b. 1853), Delvin Frank (b. 22 Sep 1855), Emma S. (b. 1857), James “Jarvis” Harlo (b. 20 July 1858), and Delvin J. (b. 1859).

Calvin Holman and his family lived in various towns in Wisconsin (Oshkosh), Ohio (Sylvania and Toledo), before to settle in early 1880s in Chicago, Illinois. Besides being a prolific inventor, Holman was a successful businessman as a proprietor of a mill, owner of a spring manufacturing business, and had substantial holdings in real estate.

Calvin James Holman died in Chicago on 23 August 1892, at the age of 64.