American Arithmometer
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American Arithmometer Company

This picture above is an American Arithmometer facility although it is unclear when it was taken or what building it was. It is from a very old postcard.

This picture of the American Arithmometer Factory in 1903 represents one of the last photos taken prior to the company moving to Detroit, Michigan, in 1904.

The following is a brief historical look at the Burroughs Adding Machine Company and its predecessor company, the American Arithmometer Company.  The information provides some interesting perspectives on the Company and answers a personal question I have always had about the difficulty in finding a specimen of a Burroughs machine that was made prior to 1900.  As the text demonstrates, few machines were sold in the early years, and the production increased dramatically after the turn-of-the-century.

Burroughs Adding Machine Company traced its beginning to William Seward Burroughs who invented and patented the first workable adding and listing machine in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1885.

To produce and market his machine, Burroughs and three other men–Thomas Metcalfe, R. M. Scruggs, and W. C. Metcalfe–formed the American Arithmometer Company on January 20, 1886.  Metcalfe was elected the Company’s first president; Burroughs was named vice president, Scruggs, treasurer, and Metcalfe, secretary.  The Company’s product line consisted of a single model, a straight adding and listing machine that sold for $475.00.

Charles E. Barney became the Company’s second president in 1891; J. H. Wyeth succeeded him in 1893.

In its first 10 years, the Company grew to include a factory and office staff of 65 employees and 3 salesmen in the field.  During 1895, sales climbed to 284 machines.  That same year, Burroughs Adding and Registering Company, Limited of Nottingham, England was established. Three years later, the Company’s first manufacturing facility outside the U.S. was also established at Nottingham.  The year, 1895, also marked the Company’s first dividend payment.  The Company continued to maintain an uninterrupted dividend payment record for over 100 years.

Between 1895 and 1900, sales jumped to 972 machines, the factory and office staff grew to 200 employees, and the sales force increased to 12 men.  William Seward Burroughs, who had retired from active participation in the Company because of ill health, died on September 14, 1898.  Joseph E. Boyer, a St. Louis manufacturer who had encouraged and supported the efforts of Burroughs for many years, became president of the American Arithmometer Company in 1902.

In 1904 the Company moved to Detroit where it built a plant of 70,304 square feet in a cornfield owned by the Ferry Seed Company.  That site, which was then at the city's northern limits, is now bordered by Second and Third Avenues on the east and west and by Burroughs and Amsterdam Avenues on the north and south.  All employees and their families were moved from St. Louis to Detroit on a special train in one day.  Additions were made to the first factory in 1905, '06, '08, '10, '13, and '16.  This factory was completely rebuilt into the Burroughs Corporation offices in the early 1960s.