Samuel Young

In the middle of the 19th century, Samuel S. Young of Eaton, Ohio, USA, patented three simple (and quite similar) calculating devices. The first patent (US patent No. 6602 from 24 July 1849) was for а machine for adding figures. The second patent was for a machine for calculation of interest (US pat. No. 8329 from 2 Sep. 1851). The third patent (US pat. No. 21921 from 26 Oct. 1858) was for an arithmetical proof rule.

The patent model of Young's first calculating device (© National Museum of American History, Washington)
The patent model of Young’s first calculating device (© National Museum of American History, Washington)

It seems an adding device, based on the first patent of Young (see the drawing of US patent No. 6602 below), was manufactured and became rather popular in the 1850s in the USA. According to (most probably exaggerated) advertising, more than 30,000 examples of this device had been sold by 1857. The patent model survived to the present and it is kept in the National Museum of American History, Washington (see the upper image).

Let’s see an excerpt of a sales letter from a certain W. M. Richardson, a sales agent:
I am agent for the sale of Young’s Patent Adding Tablet a very ingenious machine for adding up columns of figures, to any amount with accuracy and rapidity, without mental labour, they are very generally used by Bankers, Merchants, Storekeepers & Accountants, as evidence of their popularity, over thirty thousand have been sold already. It will be sent by mail on receipt of One dollar, or one dozen for Nine Dollars.

The patent drawing of Young's first calculating device
The patent drawing of Young’s first calculating device

It was a wooden device, with overall measurements: 7 cm x 9.8 cm x 15.6 cm.

The simple adder with a frame holds seven strips of wood. Each strip has 19 holes on it. The ten right holes are numbered from 0 to 9. The nine remaining holes are unnumbered, but the wood is colored green. To the sides of each strip, the numbers 1 to 9 are written on the frame. The left part of the strip is covered by an upper piece on the frame.

The second calculating instrument of Young (Rule for Calculating Interest) is similar to the first, a wood and paper device with overall measurements of 0.8 cm x 35.4 cm x 4.1 cm (see the image below).

Patent model of Rule for Calculating Interest, Samuel Young, 1851, patent No. 8329
Patent model of Rule for Calculating Interest, Samuel Young, 2 September 1851, patent No. 8329

This patent model has a rectangular wooden frame with five grooves, each of which holds a bar (made from a different kind of wood) that slides crosswise. Two flat wooden pieces cover much of the bars on the left side, with a gap between them. Each bar has a set of 12 evenly spaced holes that are numbered from 11 down to 1 (the “0” holes are not numbered). Each bar also is indented at the top to hold a slip of paper that slides under the top of the machine. There are 11 further, unnumbered, holes to the right of each slip of paper. Setting up a number on the rods (to represent an amount of money or a length of time) reveals a number on the paper slips that represents an amount of tax or interest.

The third patent (pat. №21921 from 1858) was for an arithmetical proof-rule, a device, similar to the first and second calculating instruments of Young.

Simple calculating devices, similar to the above described, remained popular till the middle of the 20th century, for example, later devices of Thomas Fowler and Clarence Locke.

Biography of Samuel Young

Samuel S. Young, the son of Alexander and Sarah Young, was born on 28 March 1809, in Butler County, Ohio. The US Census for 1850 indicates that S. S. Young of Eaton, Ohio, 40 years old that year, was living with his wife (Young married on 13 February 1834, to Eliza Jane Hardy) and two children. His occupation was given as “gardener.” Apparently by 1860 Young had moved to the nearby town of Washington and he is listed in the Census as a “horticulturalist” by occupation. In 1864 and 1865 Young was working in the real estate and rental business in Cincinnati, Ohio, along with one of Red Lion’s and Warren County’s most distinguished and prosperous citizens, merchant, Postmaster, and match manufacturer—William H. Ballard (1817-1892).

Samuel S. Young died on 8 January 1885 (aged 75), in Bonnieville, Hart County, Kentucky, and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati.