Peter Lindholm

Lindholm's Adding Machine
Lindholm’s Adding Machine

In November 1885 Peter T. Lindholm, a professor of mathematics, theology, and pedagogics, at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, applied for, and on 15 June 1886 received a patent for a key-driven one-column adding machine (US patent №343770). In the same 1886 Lindholm received also a Canadian patent for five years (№24448, 7 July 1886), a French patent (№176777, 15 June 1886), and a Great Britain patent (№7874). Only one device seems to survive up to our time, now in the collection of the Arithmeum Museum, Bonn.

The very nicely ornamented adding machine of Lindholm is a small one-column key adder (overall measurements: 11.1 cm x 23.8 cm x 13.5 cm, weight: 1.8 kg), with a simple, but reliable construction, featuring two result wheels (on the left side). The right wheel is inscribed with the numbers 00 to 99 on its circumference. To the same wheel is attached a ratchet wheel with one hundred equally spaced teeth, coupled to the smaller wheel on its left by a gearing, that causes the left wheel to slowly turn in the opposite direction to the large one. The smaller wheel is for hundreds and has around its circumference the numbers 1 through 9 inscribed on it (thus the capacity of the machine is 999), each in groups of eight, as follows:
bbbbbbbb111111112222222233333333… 99999999
where b is a blank space (meaning a zero).

Attached to this wheel is a watch spring that is wound up when any addition is performed, thus keeping the large wheel in place against the pawls, and it is attached to the small wheel by gearing, that wheel is also normally locked in place.

Lindholm's Adding Machine without the cover
Lindholm’s Adding Machine without the cover

In operation the device is set to zero by first pressing the 0 key: in the results window then reads b00 (b indicates a blank from hundreds wheels, 00 is coming from the larger wheel.

When a different from 0 key is pressed, it causes a pawl to act against the large wheel in proportion to the number being added. The large wheel turns away from the operator and the smaller one towards him. The angle turned is in proportion to the key just pressed, e.g. by pressing the 9 key eleven times, 99 is input and the result window will show b99. When one is added, the tens carry will happen, the larger wheel will advance to 00 and the gear will transfer the motion to the smaller wheel, advancing it to 1, thus the result, seen through the apertures, will be 100.

The sum of the wheels is fixed in place by two pawls operating on the larger 100-tooth gear. Thus, when the 0 key is pressed, the pawls are released causing the wound springs to turn the two wheels back to their starting positions (zero-point). Moreover, a spiral spring, which is tensioned during the addition, enables an automatic return.

A machine, similar to Lindholm's Adding Machine (© National Museum of American History)
A machine, similar to Lindholm’s Adding Machine (© National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.)

Interestingly, in the collection of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., is kept a device, that is quite similar to the adding machine of Lindholm (see the nearby image), it is unknown however what is the relation of this probably later device with the original patent of Lindholm.

The above-mentioned machine has a wooden base, plastic sides (the plastic sides mitigate against a 19th-century origin), and a metal mechanism and keys. A bar across the back is moved in differing amounts according to the key pressed (the nine keys across the front are depressed in slots of varying length and hence rotate the bar in varying amounts). The bar, in turn, rotates a numeral wheel with the numbers 0 to 99 on it. There is a one-digit carry. Keys are marked with the digits from 1 to 9 (the 5 key is missing). There is no 0 key.

Biography of Peter Lindholm

Anna Olga Petronella Lindholm-Jones (1886-1955)
Anna Olga Petronella Lindholm-Jones (1886-1955), the youngest daughter of Peter Lindholm

Peter Trulson Lindholm was born on 4 April 1850, in Ysane, a village situated in Sölvesborg Municipality, Blekinge County, Sweden, and emigrated to the USA in 1872. In America, Lindholm settled initially in Minnesota (over a quarter of a million Swedes came to Minnesota between 1850 and 1930, drawn primarily by economic opportunities not available to them at home), where on 3 November 1875 he married Anna Mattson (1856-1944) from Vasa, Goodhue, Minnesota, the daughter of Peter Mattson (1816-1866) and Sissa Mattsdotter (1817-1903). They had seven children (but two of them died in infancy, an unfortunate but common occurrence up to the 19th century): Edna Dorothea, Victor Ambrosius, Stena Aurora, Edna Henrietta, Alma Hildegard, Sigfrid Alvin, and Anna Olga Petronella (1886-1955, see the nearby photo).

The Lindholm family moved to Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1883 (Lindsborg is a small town in the Smoky Valley region of north central Kansas, in McPherson County, settled in 1869 by some 100 Swedish immigrant pioneers, seeking religious freedom), where Peter was invited as professor of mathematics, theology, and pedagogics, at the just founded (in October 1881) Bethany College.

Peter T. Lindholm lectured at Bethany College for over two years until the end of 1885 and was a collector of Bethany College Museum. In 1886 he was elected treasurer of McPherson County, a position, which he kept until his death in 1890. Lindholm was also a choirmaster of the local oratorio society.

Peter Trulson Lindholm died of consumption on 25 January 1890, only 39 years old, leaving a wife and five children.