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Combination:Calculating Machine and Printer, 1897

Getting Started

Burroughs was indeed capable of dreaming up an efficient adding machine, but he lacked one element necessary to turn his dream into a reality: money. He happened upon a financial source in 1884, when he was sent on a mechanical job to a local store in Saint Louis. He mentioned his plans for an adding machine to one of the store's employees, and the staff member was so enthused at the prospect of such an invention that he pronounced himself willing to invest in the idea. Moreover, he persuaded his friends to invest as well.

With the money he received from these men, Burroughs rented a few feet of bench space in a small, single-story brick workshop from a proprietor named Joseph Boyer. His chief assistance came from a young man who introduced himself as Alfred Doughty. By the time he got to working in this shop, Burroughs had amassed a capital of roughly $300.00, which he repaid with promised shares in the adding machine company he hoped to build.

An inventor himself, Joseph Boyer was busy developing a pneumatic hammer valve while Burroughs was working on his adding machine. The two paid little attention to each other in the cramped corners of the workshop, but Boyer’s name resurfaces in the history of the Burroughs Registering Accountant. A few years after Burroughs’ death in 1898, Boyer assumed the responsibility of directing the American Arithmometer Company, which was producing and selling Burroughs’ machine.

As director, he established a department called “Inventions,” instructing his employees to come up with inventions that would enhance the company’s product. Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of Boyer and of company staff, American Arithmometer models were developed in a dizzying variety of directions. Alfred Doughty, Burrough’s assistant, would eventually take on the company's presidency.