Elmore Taylor

Elmore Taylor's adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)
Elmore Taylor’s adding machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

In May 1874, Elmore W. Taylor of Franklin, Johnson County, Indiana, applied for a patent for adding machines (US patent No. 155772), assigning one-half to his brother Richard T. Taylor. In the 1870s Elmore worked as an assistant cashier at First National Bank of Franklin and obviously devised this adding machine to facilitate his daily work and with the support of his elder brother Dick, who was general manager and cashier of the bank.

The patent for the circular adding machine was granted on 6 October 1874, and 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 surviving device and it obviously never became popular.

The adding machine of Elmore Taylor is a circular adder (similar to earlier adding devices of William Haines and Aaron Hatfield). It is made of wood, metal, and paper, and it is quite big, with overall measurements of 14.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm (although the patent mentioned that it can be made of wood, or of wood and metal, or entirely of metal, and can be made of any convenient size). The device is intended to be used for adding columns of figures, two places at a time.

Elmore Taylor's adding machine (the patent drawing)
Elmore Taylor’s adding machine (the patent drawing)

The wooden base of the device supports three concentric wooden rings and a central mechanism. The outer fixed ring has a serrated outer edge. The 100 serrations are numbered from 1 to 99 (the 0 serration isn’t numbered) on a paper ring fixed to the surface of the ring. Inside this ring is a movable ring, grooved or notched with 100 upward-facing serrations around its edge. These are numbered on the adjacent piece of paper from 00 to 99. Inside this ring is a third fixed ring, serrated on the inside, and also carrying a numbered slip of paper numbered from 00 to 99.

Two wooden arms are mounted on a rotating wooden platform at the center of the instrument. The larger arm is designed to link to the two outer rings and the smaller one to the middle ring only. The machine has a carry (by means of a pivoted arm and a pawl) from the tens to the hundreds place.

Biography of Elmore Taylor

Elmore (or Elmer) W. Taylor was born in 1847 in the town of Franklin, the county seat of Johnson County in Indiana, United States, located about 25 km south of the state capital Indianapolis. He was the third son of John W. Taylor (1810-1878) and Nancy (née Handley) Taylor (1811-1880), both from New York. Elmore had three sisters (Aletha Angeline, b. 1840; Mary E., (1844-1881), and Hannah J., (1849-1914) and two brothers—Pierson Theodore (1834-1896), and Richard (Dick) T. (1842-1885).

Elmore Taylor had an inventive mind and received his first patent only 19 years old in 1866. In 1870 his brother Dick, who was in the clothing business, was appointed as a cashier and general manager of First National Bank of Franklin (the second bank in Indiana, opened in 1863), and soon he assured the position of assistant cashier to his younger brother Elmore. It seems Elmore lived quietly in his hometown until February 1877, and he even married a local girl, the young Margaret (Maggie) A. Toner (1857-1885), on 5 October 1876.

At the beginning of February 1877, Dick Taylor suddenly disappeared from the town, and a couple of days later Elmore received a letter from his brother. It appeared that Dick Taylor had fled, that the affairs of the bank were in a worse condition than anyone would imagine, and that he (Richard) had been forcing balances and deceiving the bank examiners for a long time, and had been paying dividends to stockholders without earning them. On receipt of this startling epistle, Elmore Taylor at once informed James Forsyth, the president of the bank, of the turn affairs had taken, and on 6th Feb. the bank was closed. The investigation found that the amount of bank losses by Dick Taylor’s rascality was over 100000 USD (a huge sum for the time and over 60% of the entire resources of the bank), mainly filched and consumed in speculations in real estate and margins. It was found also that Dick’s family (he had a wife, Josephine Andrews, and one child, Alice, who was born in 1868), as well as his brother Elmore, were hoodwinked in regard to his criminal operations. Interestingly, a year later Dick Taylor was found wandering aimlessly about between Indianapolis and Franklin, was put on trial, but was declared insane by the jury and eventually released, although the bank was utterly wrecked and the money was never recovered.

After the painful events of 1877, Elmore left his hometown, and moved for several years to Detroit, where he used to work as a photographer, then returned to Indianapolis. Elmore Taylor was a holder of several US and Canadian patents, as besides the adding machine, he patented also an evaporator (patent 56464 from 1866), advertising devices (1880 and 1883), and a roller skate (pat. US255694 from 1882).

Elmore Taylor died only 38 years old at Indianapolis on 4 March 1885, of catarrhal affection, and was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, Edinburgh, Johnson County, Indiana.