Odhner hand built his first machine in 1874 while working for Nobel in St. Petersburg, Russia. The above image was scanned from a photocopy of a page from Martin's "The Calculating Machines" Page 66. The caption reads "The model of 1874, handmade by the inventor himself.". I don't own Martin's book, so if someone can contribute a better quality scan of this image, I would be grateful. In fact, if anyone has a spare copy of this book, I'd like to purchase it.
This early Odhner arithmometer is at the Polytechnic Museum of Moscow, and I'm told they believe it to be serial #11, because they found that number stamped on an internal part. The picture is courtesy of Mr. Katsunori Kadokura who received it from that museum. Note that part of the housing is broken off. This is very similar in design to the hand built 1874 model, except that the crank handle appears to be a little more sophisticated, the result register aperatures are now rectangular instead of oval and there is an additional place for the results and the proofs. The familiar arrows can now be seen on the right, which give the direction for the various operations.
Here's another example, which resides in the Smithsonian at the National Museum of American History and Technology . The name "Arithmometer" is written across the top and above it is written W. Odhner. In the upper left is written "L Nobel", and on the upper right "St. Petersburg". Although less visible, the previous example has similar markings, but they may be in Russian Cyrillics. I don't know the serial number of this one, but I'm told it had been repainted, which (no doubt) accounts for the flawless condition.
Here's another example that resides at the Smithsonian which has it's original box and instructions.
The model shown in this 1878 ad is also very similar in design to the 1874 model. It is believed that as few as 50 machines were built under the 1874 patent, and a second 1879 patent, which are represented by the examples shown so far. With the exception of the 1874 hand built prototype, all the examples above appear to have the same exterior design, and I do not know which of these examples represent which of the two early patents.
The above image is of a piece of promotional literature printed in 1891 in Stockholm by Captain Alvin Ahlin. This illustration represents the new design patented in 1890, which was the basis for pinwheel machines built thereafter, by Odhner, Brunsviga, and many other manufacturers. Note that in the new design, the revolutions counting register is now to the left of the results register and is cleared via a left thumbscrew rather than by individual knobs. Also, the settings pins are no longer combined with settings register aperatures, aparently these were eliminated to save horizontal space.
The above picture of Arithmometer serial #50 was scanned from page 26 of "Odhners Historia", written by Henry Wassen in 1945. The caption reads "Agare Ingenjor Willgodt Odhner, Stockholm". This refers to the current owner, engineer Willgodt Odhner, who was the grandson of Willgodt the inventor. I learned from my third cousin Gunnar Odhner that this machine was passed down by Willgodt Odhner to his descendants for several generations prior to being sold in the 1950's. Gunnar tells me that when he was young, his father Willgodt (grandson of Willgodt, the inventor) had it sitting on his desk at home, but later sold it. Gunnar believes that #50 is now in a museum, but he does not know where. It is highly possible that #50 was the very first machine produced under the improved 1890 patent, and that this is why the inventor chose to keep it. One wonders what ever became of the 1874 prototype. If anyone knows the whereabouts of either of these machines, please let me know.
This is serial number 52, one of the very earliest produced under the 1890 design patent. Oddly, on this particular example, there are two holes at the lower edge of the top plate, a large elongated one on the left side of the settings pin slots, and a smaller one to the right. These are shaped and positioned in exactly such a way that they must have accomodated the fast zero settings mechanism seen in much later models (see #12536 below, and all the examples after it). The fast zero setting mechanism is a long, narrow horizontal plate, hidden from view along the lower inside edge og the top cover. It has alternating square teeth so that each tooth is just to the right of each setting pin slot. The mechenism is spring loaded so that if it is pulled slightly to the left, the setting pins will be blocked by the teeth, and will therefore forced to the zero position, upon a 1/2 turn of the main crank. In the non deployed position, the only visible parts of this mechanism would be the thumb tab on the left, and an anchor pin on the right. On the above machine, however, the mechanism itself is not there, and only the holes are present. My understanding was that this feature did not appear until after approximately 1907, but it is a very simple device, and could easily have been retrofitted at some point, and then removed again. This machine is now on exhibit at The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, in Stockholm. The image is provided courtesy of Matts Ramberg, curator there.
Here is #57, another extremely early example of the 1890 design, which is at the former Facit calculating company headquarters, Atvidaberg, Sweden. The photograph was taken by Christofer Nöring. This calculator even has it's original box.
This unique example is serial number 252, a personal gift from the inventor to Gustaf, then Crowned Prince of Sweden, who in 1907 became King Gustaf V. This machine is also now on exhibit at The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, in Stockholm. The name Gustaf can be seen etched onto the brass cover plate. This image is also provided courtesy of Matts Ramberg, museum curator. They believe this machine to have been made around 1895, however, it is unlikely that only 200 units were made in the 5 year interim 1890-1895. I would suggest the date is closer to 1891. A new Odhner factory was built in 1889(Wassen), and in 1892, Brunsviga was liscenced to produce identical calculators in Germany and elsewhere, suggesting that demand had already reached a level which would support such investments. In all, 30,000 Odhner calculators are said to have been produced in Russia between 1890 and 1917, 6000 of these as of 1903(Martin). 20,000 Brunsvigas were produced in Germany from 1892 to 1912(Martin). After 1917, Odhner production was moved to Sweden. Production to date has exceeded 1 million units.
Above is another very early "W.T. Odhner - Arithmometer", serial number 313. The picture is from a booklet called "Från abakus till Odhner" published in Sweden in 1958....I am told the calculator itself may also reside at the Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm at this time, however, the curator there did not mention it or send a picture of this along with the other two.. The calculator is of unknown date, however, it can't be too far different than number 252, above. This is almost identical to No 52, having 9/6/11 capacity rather than the 9/8/13.
Here is serial number 1495. An early one, but again of unknown date. This is privately owned and is almost identical to No 252, having 9/8/13 capacity. It also happens to have the name "W.T. Odhner - Arithmometer" written in Russian Cyrillics. Since a great many of the calculators were sold domestically, I would guess this was not uncommon. An unusual feature: The register wheels are white with black numerals as is the case with the 1874 prototype model. In another photograph of this machine, you can see that there is a vertical metal tube attached along the lower part of the left rear corner, which was possibly used to align and stabilize the machine in it's box. The next machine number 2490 also has this tube, visible in an alternate photograph. In the above photograph of serial number 57, which has a box, you will see that there is a pin at the left rear corner, which could have anchored the machine by this tube. This also suggests that many or all of these early machines came with a wooden box. The owner of this machine has suggested the tube could have been to hold a pencil, but I prefer my theory.
Here is serial number 2490. A very nice one, owned by Mr. Katsunori Kadokura. The top plate of this one is painted black as opposed to the bare brass finish seen in all earlier post 1890 models. It is unclear, however, whether all the previous examples were always bare brass, or whether some of them may have been stripped of their paint when a majority of it wore off. It does appear, though, that the bare brass finish was original at least on some models, because the 1891 advertisement above shows a machine with a light colored top plate. I think the wooden base is not original, since there appears to be no hardware for attaching a lid.
This beauty is serial number 3070. This was sold at Breker auction in 1999. It is the latest serial number I have heard of with a short crank handle, and I am told that the handle was lengthened around #3100. This knowledge was based on having seen examples sold at the Breker auction with serial numbers very close to, but on either side of 3100, where the serial number below 3100 had a short handle, and the one above had an extended handle. The lettering is done in Russian Cyrillics. It is the only example of an Odhner I've ever seen with the red and white coloring on the number columns, which was typical on the Brunsvigas (a licenscee which produced identical machines in Germany beginning in1892). This, along with the fantastic condition, leads me to suspect that it was later repainted, in the manner of a Brunsviga. Note that #3070 is permanently bolted to a large wooden base which has hardware for a matching lockable wooden cover. Russian machines from this point forward have this same storage method, while the prior models were apparently stored and transported in a wooden box, such as that of #57, and the boxed Smithsonian example. The earlier machines had to be lifted out for operation, which may be the reason for the change. One exception to this is #52, which has a wide wooden base like the later machines with covers. However this base does not have hardware for hinges or locks, and appears not to be original to the machine.
This machine, number 4941, belongs to VladmirBaykov, and must have been built right around 1900. Note the introduction of the extended crank handle along with it's beautiful support casting. The name "Arithmometer - W.T. Odhner" is written across the top in Russian Cyrillics.
Here is a close-up of the same machine, showing the Cyrillic Lettering .
This great 1903 machine belongs to Sergei Frolov, and he believes it to be serial number 6234, 6324, or 6321. Unfortunately, the serial number was filed off so thoroughly that only a few curves are left to provide clues. If this range of serial numbers is correct, it was made in early 1903, based on a statement in a Swedish technical journal, which said that by 1903 there had been 6000 Odhner machines sold. Note that the clearing dials (wingnuts?) on this machine are horizontal when at the home position, whereas on all prior machines I have seen, they are vertical. I have seen another machine, with serial number 6536 which still has the vertical dials, so I question the hypothetical serial number of this machine on that basis. Otherwise, this machine's appearance is consistent with such a date, which is significant in that is is just two years prior to Odhner's death in September of 1905. The name of this one is also in Cyrillics.
This is serial number 9397, and is one of several Odhners that I own, the others being a 1920 Swedish made "Arithmos", and a 1928 Swedish made model 7 (see below). Odhner's Arithmometer #9397 was made in Russia sometime shortly before 1907. Note this also has the extended crank handle and ornamental support casting, which was a permanent addition at aroun 1900, or serial number 3100. This is one of the latest serial numbers I've seen which is still called "Arithmometer", in this case "Odhner's Arithmometer", in English, or Swedish(?). Soon after this, the name became "Original Odhner". There is a cute little bell behind the left thumbscrew for signaling negative numbers (not visible in this picture, but visible in the picture of #17265, below. I'm not sure when the bell was first introduced. This machine comes complete with mahogany base and cover, as well as the key. It still has the old pre 1907 instructions glued to the inside of the cover, and does not have a number of other features introduced in 1907 (Wassen). It is therefore assumed to be pre 1907. However, if only 6000 were made before 1903, it is likely this machine must be very close to 1907. The original owner was a Swedish astronomer named Gustaf Stromberg. There was originally black enamel on the top plate, but so much of it was worn off that I could not resist the urge to remove the rest, shame on me.
This is serial number 12536, and is very similar to the previous example. This model is the earliest I've seen bearing the name "Original Odhner", and I have been told there was a 1907 ad showing a machine by that name. Note the addition of the step switches for shifting the carriage right or left. Note the disapperance of the metal cover for the carriage which protruded out to the left in the earlier models (except the 1903 example). There is a fast clearing mechanism on the carriage and a tabulating device for shifting the carriage. These features establish that this machine is post 1907(Wassen). Since these two latest examples are about 3100 units apart (probably less than 2 years) and they "straddle" the date 1907... taken together, it's a good guess that they are approximately 1906 and 1908, respectively.
This is serial number 17265, and is called "Original Odhner" like the previous model shown. This machine was made in Russia sometime around 1910-1912. You will see that this machine also has the "fast clearing" mechanisms. A judgement can be made that this machine -17,265 out of 30,000 made from 1890 to 1917- would not be later than 1913 unless it could be imagined that the other 13,000, or nearly one half of the 30,000 Russian calculators made during the 27 year period were produced in the last three years of Russian production. This is a rate of 4000 per year in the last 3 years, which leaves only 17000 for the first 24 years...about 700 per year. It is not unreasonable to suspect that the greater part of the production did take place closer to the end of the period... and the first 10 years of Swedish production did yeild 4,000 per year. I think this kind of analysis is pure guesswork, but can be useful nevertheless in setting reasonable date ranges based on serial numbers. Based on this, and in conjunction with the other examples, I believe this example can't have been produced too far from 1910-1911.
This "Original Odhner" was made in Sweden in 1920, and belongs to me. This example is serial number 40808 and has the additional name "Arithmos" along with a winged emblem. The Arithmos, or Model 5 was the first model made in Sweden, and is the last model to be made in the larger size (about 40% larger) of the Russian made models. It is believed that this model was begun with the serial number 40,000 and that only several thousand were made, at most. Note that the armature supporting the crank handle has become slightly less ornamental than the Russian examples, yet not as simplified as the 1928 model below. The slide markers and tabulators are in the same style as those seen on the Russian models. There is a bell, but it is internal as with the future models. Also note the machine is still mounted on a wooden base rather than the metal pedestal used with future models, but there is no sign that there was a cover. The bakelite crank handle on this machine was mostly missing, but I have since turned one from a piece of ebony, and I'll take a picture soon.
Starting with the Swedish production, the serial numbers have been moved to the back, and the Original Odhner logo is now at the upper left. This example (owned by me) is serial number 85813 and therefore can be established as having been produced in 1928 according to serial number records from Original Odhner Co. Sometime between 1922 and 1928, the tabulating device became a permanent feature. The enamel is the typical black, worn in the settings pin areas from steady use. Now the armature supporting the crank handle has become even less ornamental than the 1922 example. As we will see, the extra supports between the two horizontal posts will disappear altogether in several years. Another change during this period was the embossing of the numbers and lettering vs. engraving. Also note the machine is no longer mounted on a wooden base, but instead has a curved metal pedestal. With the exception of those made in the first 6 or 7 years of Swedish production, the Swedish made Original Odhners are smaller, the setting pins being about 7 millimeters apart as opposed to 9 millimeters on the Russian made calculators.
Here is a very clean example of a circa 1940 machine. I don't have the serial number but the thumbscrews have given way to crank handles for clearing the registers. I believe this change took place about 1934, but I'm not sure. The supporting castings are gone from between the horizontal posts which house the main crank handle shaft, and the mechanism for registering the "home" position for the crank. The enamel is the typical black, but on this one it's in mint condition. Judging by the features, this machine could have been made anywhere from 1935 to 1945 ...but the owner may know the date, since it can be determined based on the serial number on the back panel... Note this machine has a curved metal pedestal and also sits on a wooden base with cover. This is purely a guess, (please correct me if I'm wrong) but I suspect this case was not originally for this machine, but was perhaps from a Brunsviga. I don't think the cases were generally used in conjuction with the metal pedestal, and this case has latches on the ends like a Brunsviga case rather than front and back like the Odhner cases I've seen. It's a beautiful case, and seems to go well with the machine, regardless. Note that the metal pedestal is more angular at the corners... much less rounded than the 1928 pedestal. I found this image the HP Museum site (see links).
For several years from 1950 to 1952 the calculators looked like this blue example. In addition to the blue enamel, the buttons for shifting the carriage right and left were changed from round metal dish shaped buttons to the cube shaped white bakalite you see here. The little metal sliders are now crimped sheetmetal rather than the rounded sliders used before, however, I believe this change occured sometime in the mid 40's since I've seen a machine with the new markers, but the old carriage shifter buttons. Note also the white triangle shaped tab at the right end of the carriage. This is a nice feature which allows the contents of the results register to be transferred back to the settings pins. The "Rapid Zero Setting" device is not visible on this model or the "modern" design shown below, but I assume the feature now exists in some other form, perhaps in combination with the "Back Transfer" device. I don't own one of this particular vintage, so I will rely on someone else to clarify that.
This is an example of the final or "modern" design of the Odhner pinwheel calculator. A grey putty color, the housing has been redesigned to become a flat angled surface with the familiar curve from the old design being faintly echoed by a curved protrusion in the area of the settings pins. There is a settings register at the top, above the settings levers. The crank handle is now angled out from the stem at about a 45 degree angle. These were still being made as late as the late 1960s and early 1970s!