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The price of the arithmometer :
1998

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The price of the arithmometer
/ By Stephen Johnston
A number of commentators noted
that one of the primary disincentives to the expansion of the market for the
arithmometer was its elevated price. There is also at least one comment that the improvements that had been
made had allowed the price to be reduced. It would therefore be useful to make some sort of effort to establish
what the price was at different times.
General comments on price
In the first report on the
arithmometer by Francoeur, he notes his conclusion that the machine ‘sera
toujours d’un prix élevé’ (1822/1920, p.661).
The 1854 Lemoyne report needs
to be checked; certainly the quotes in JacomyRégnier show that he was saying
some interesting things about how the price might be altered if it was made for
very many possible purchasers.
Reuleaux (Dingler’s Journal, 165 (1862), 334362, p. 362) says ‘Der Preis des
Arithmometers ist hoch’.
An English promotional sheet
of post1862 (with ScM
The French promotional leaflet
of post1865 (repro’d in the Brunsviga catalogue?) gives no price but does say
that ‘Le prix modéré de la machine à calculer varie suivant la grandeur.’
Dietzschold (presumably in his
publication of 1882) apparently considered the Thomas machine as ‘sehr teuer’
(very expensive); Hartmut Petzold, Rechnende
Maschinen (1985), p. 104.
Specific machine prices
1854 Lemoyne, as quoted in
JacomyRégnier, says that a machine cost 300fr. I shall need to check what
capacity he had in order to compare this with the 1856 figures of Cosmos.
1854 Report of the 24th Meeting of
the British Association, September 1854 (
1856 Cosmos 8 (1856). The inner
leaves of the cover sheets list ‘Spécialités recommandées par le Cosmos’ and
include the arithmometer under ‘Instruments de Mathématiques’: 10figure
(5x0x10) 250fr, 16figure (8x0x16) 500fr.
1862 F. Reuleaux gives the following
prices
5x0x10 150F
6x7x12 300
8x0x16 300
8x9x16 400
Note that there
does not appear to be any mention here of the quotient effacer which, to judge
by the later listings and prices, would have been listed separately and cost
more.
post1862 English leaflet (with ScM
5x0x10 £6
6x7x12 12
8x0x16 12
8x9x16 16
10x11x20 32
Note that these
are prices in
1864 Prussian Statistical Office bought a 6 figure machine
for 300fr (Petzold p. 106)
1865 Prussian Statistical Office
bought an 8 figure machine for 500fr (Petzold p. 106)
1866 Henry Brunel paid £12 for an
arithmometer (perhaps a 12figure with quotient, since he subsequently refers
to his small machine)
1867 F.A.P. Barnard purchased an
8x9x16 machine for 500fr (with single or double effacer?). This was equivalent to $140.50, and including
shipping etc the total cost was $167.89. (Peggy Kidwell art.)
1867 Reports
on the
1868 Henry Brunel bought a 16figure
machine with quotient eraser for £20. He
also ordered through Adie a 12figure machine with quotient eraser, expecting
the price to be £16
1869 Henry Brunel ordered a 16figure
with quotient effacer for £20 through Adie
1872 English leaflet gives prices in
5x0x10 £6
6x7x12 12
6x7x12
(with quotient effacer) 16
8x0x16 12
8x9x16 16
8x9x16
(with quotient effacer) 20
10x11x20 (with quotient
effacer) 32
These are the same
prices as the earlier English leaflet, but the quotient effacer models have
been added.
c.1875 Thomas Egleston (Columbia School of
Mines) bought a 10x11x20 machine which he recalled in 1892 had cost $100. (Peggy Kidwell art.) This seems a
suspiciously low figure, given that the dollar price of the smaller capacity
machine bought by Barnard in 1876 was $140. Perhaps Egleston
misremembered? Depending on whether the
Barnard machine has a single or double effacer, and using the English prices as
a guide, we might expect Eggleston’s machine to have cost $280 or $224.
1876 Prudential purchased 10
arithmometers, 4 of the 6figure machines @ £16 (serial no. 1452, 1455, 1457,
1458) and 6 of the 8figure machines @ £20 (serial no.
1878 Sebert (1879/1920), p.707 gives
a 16figure machine as 500fr
*
With the Authorization of the author

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