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Combination:Calculating Machine and Printer, 1897

Taking Notice

In 1897, just a year before Burroughs’ death, The Franklin Institute recognized the achievement of this inventor with a John Scott Legacy Medal. This particular medal was presented by the city of Philadelphia, based on the advice of The Franklin Institute’s Committee on Science and the Arts (CSA). Appointed in 1824, the Institute's advising committee was originally called the “Board of Examiners.” For a brief time the appellation was changed to “The Committee on Inventions,” and since 1834 the group has been referred to as “The Committee on Science and the Arts.” This group was formed by The Franklin Institute's Board of Managers in response to “the need felt by inventors and discoverers, for some competent, trustworthy and impartial body, on whom they could confidently rely for an opinion as to the usefulness of their inventions and discoveries.” The CSA provided this service through the examination and evaluation of inventions proffered during America’s age of industrial revolution, a time when the U.S. Patent Office was neither as well-organized nor as well-functioning as it is today.

At this point in history, the Institute judged that the investigation and encouragement of new technology was vital to the growth of the nation. Accordingly, its Committee on Science and the Arts approved, disproved, or offered advice concerning the improvement of a given invention. In special cases, the CSA honored the inventor or improver of technology with an award or premium in acknowledgement of his contribution to “the Mechanical and Useful Arts.”

Each invention undergoing evaluation by The Franklin Institute's Committee on Science and the Arts was given a case file, where documents prevalent to the study of that invention were kept. The Franklin Institute charged an application fee of $5.00 for the submission of inventions for evaluation. The Burroughs case file, pulled from Franklin Institute archives, records primarily the correspondence between Institute secretary W.H. Wahl and CSA committee member Hugo Bilgram, and American Arithmometer employees E.G. Langhorne and H.B. Wyeth. Numerous checks on the status of the award application by American Arithmometer reveal that the young company was anxious for prestigious recognition; furthermore, it was convinced that The Franklin Institute's respected position in 19th century society rendered the organization capable of offering such recognition.

Following are the rules generated by the Committee on Science and the Arts (CSA), governing the procedure for the selection of award candidates, particularly as they applied to the consideration of William S. Burroughs.