Jaap's Mechanical Calculators Page

Elm City Counter

Elm City Counter


This is a 5-digit counter. It is intended for industrial use, and was often used with printing presses and in the textile industry. It could be connected to an industrial machine in order to count how many cycles were done, e.g. how many items were produced. There is a lever on the right hand side, and pushing it down increments the counter.

It is a rectangular brass box, held together by screws in the corners on the front and back. The five digits of the register are visible through small round windows in the front plate. Below each window is a knob with which the digit can be changed. The number is reset by setting the digits from right to left.

Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter

This counter has seen so much use that it is worn out. The attachment hole in the lever has expanded to almost reach the edge. The axle hole in the rear plate for the units wheel has expanded so much that the carry mechanism fails if more than two digits carry over.

The mechanism is very simple. The axles are tilted slightly so that the number wheels can overlap and be at the same depth in the windows. They rotate in alternate directions so that the carry mechanism can remain simple, without intermediate wheels.

Elm City Counter
Elm City Counter


Here is a video where I show the Elm City Counter.


The Elm City Printers' Warehouse was a printer supply store in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven has the nickname Elm City due to the large number of Elm trees there. This store was founded in 1876 by H. P. Hubbard, but changed hands fairly often. In 1882 it was bought by George David Read Hubbard. It was located at 379 State Street.

The first mention I found of the Elm City Counter is from 1883. George Hubbard sold all kinds of printer supplies and printing services, but also manufactured a number of his own products made from brass and steel, including a card cutter and the Elm City Counter.

In late 1887 the store and the manufacturing rights of the store's own products was purchased by George E. Ives. This lasted till 1891, when the business was continued by G. Edward Osborn (& Co). The business went bust in 1894. It is possible that the manufacturing of the Elm City Counter was outsourced to the factory of Charles J. Root in Bristol, Connecticut.

Joel H. Root began to make clock trimmings in Bristol in the 1850s, and managed to grow his business such that he set up a factory in about 1865 where he also made piano hinges. When he died in 1885, his son Charles took over the business. He diversified into making counters, registering a patent for a counter mechanism in 1891. It is unclear in what way this patent differs from the previously produced Elm City counters. This mechanism was used in Root's Bristol Counter, and it seems quite plausible that Root's factory also produced the Elm City Counter for G. Edward Osborn, too.

Charles J. Root also made hinges for car manufacturers, and became an avid car enthusiast. This sadly led to his death in 1907, when he and his family were killed when his steam-powered car (a Stanley Steamer) collided with a train. The factory and other business assets were bought by a local syndicate, which formed the C. J. Root Company to continue the business. It advertised its counters especially to the textile trade, but also continued to make hinges, and offered metal stamping and electroplating services to other businesses.

The C. J. Root Company made several versions of the Elm City Counter. It was available with 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 digits; it could be supplied with a bell that rang when the register overflowed, with a key instead of setting knobs, or with a locking bar that covered the setting knobs completely to completely block unauthorized changing of the digits.

In 1920 the company shortened its name to The Root Company, and in 1928 it merged with Veeder, another company that made small counters, to become Veeder-Root. This new company continued to make Elm City Counters in all variations with only the front inscription changed, until at least the late 1930s. The Veeder-Root company became almost synonymous with mechanical counters.

1882-1887G. D. R. Hubbard
1887-1891George E. Ives
1891-1894G. Edward Osborn (& Co)
1895-1907C. J. Root (No Elm City Counters known)
1908-1920The C. J. Root Company
1921-1928The Root Company
1928- Veeder-Root, Inc.


Here are various articles of this counter that I found in online archives.

1883-1894 Elm City Printers' Warehouse

1884-01-21 The Morning Call (Allentown Pennsylvania)
1886-04 Inland Printer - American Lithographer
1887-11 Inland Printer - American Lithographer
1891-03-23 The Morning Journal Courier (New Haven, Connecticut)
1891-03-26 The Iron Age
1892-06-02 The Iron Age
1894-01-04 The Boston Globe (Boston Massachusetts)
1895 One thousand years of Hubbard history

1907-1920 C. J. Root & Co.

1907 Bristol Connecticut
1907-08-19 Meriden Morning Record (Connecticut)
1907-08-19 Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghampton New York)
1907-08-19 The Berkshire Evening Eagle (Pittsfield Massachusetts)
1907-11-28 The Iron Trade Review
1910 Men of mark in Connecticut 1
1910-03 Textile World Record
1910-12 Textile World Record
1913-04 The Inland printer
1913-11 Textile World Record 1
1916-06 Cotton
1917-06 Cotton 2
1920-07-19 Hartford Courant (Connecticut)

1921-1928 The Root Company

1920-12-16 The Iron Age
1921-05-14 Electrical Review
1923-07-07 Textile World
1928-02-16 Hardware Age

1928, Veeder-Root, Inc.

1928-05 Connecticut Industry
1934-11 Connecticut Industry 1
1934-11 Connecticut Industry 2
1934-11 Connecticut Industry 3
1934-11 Connecticut Industry 4
1938-11 Connecticut Industry
1939 Burpee's The story of Connecticut
1941-03 Connecticut Industry
1946-08 Connecticut Industry
2010 Bristol Business and Industry - Lynda J Russell


Here are various advertisements and catalogue listings from online archives. The drawings of the older Elm City Counters have the setting knobs all arranged in a straight line, but physical examples of the counter, even earlier ones by G.D.R. Hubbard, actually seem identical to later versions with the knobs arranged in a zig-zag fashion.

1883-1894 Elm City Printers' Warehouse

1883-10 The Inland printer
1884-10 The Inland printer
1887-06 The Inland printer
1887-08-11 The Iron Age
1887-12-03 Scientific American
1889 Specimen book from the Boston type foundry
1889-06 The Inland printer
1889-09-28 Scientific American
1892 Price List of Type, Printing Machinery and Material by the Elm City Printers Warehouse
1892-03-31 The Iron Age
1892-06-29 Engineering News and American Railway Journal
1893-12-28 The Iron Age
1902-05 Inland Type Foundry Specimen Book and Catalog

1907-1920 C. J. Root & Co.

1895-09-14 Scientific American
1907-12-07 Scientific American
1908-05 Textile World Record 1
1908-05 Textile World Record 2
1908-10 Textile World Record
1909-03 Textile World Record
1909-06 Cotton
1909-10 Textile World Record
1910-12-22 The Iron Age
1912-10 Cotton
1913-09 Journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
1913-11 Textile World Record 2
1914-03 Textile World Record
1914-05 Textile World Record
1914-09 Textile World Record
1915-10-07 Canadian machinery and metalworking
1916-10 Condensed Catalogues of Mechanical Equipment - American Society of Mechanical Engineers 1
1916-10 Condensed Catalogues of Mechanical Equipment - American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2
1916-12 The Metal Industry
1917-03 Cotton
1917-05-12 Textile World Journal
1917-06 Cotton 1
1918-10-19 Textile World Journal
1920-04-17 Textile World
1921-04-02 Electrical Review

1921-1928 The Root Company

1923-05 Scientific American
1923-06 Scientific American
1923-08 Scientific American
1923-09 Scientific American
1923-10 Scientific American
1923-10-20 Textile World
1923-11 Scientific American
1923-11-17 Textile World
1923-11-24 Textile World
1923-12 Cotton
1924-01 Scientific American
1924-03 Scientific American
1924-05 Cotton
1924-05 Scientific American
1924-06 Scientific American
1924-09-13 Textile World
1924-10 Scientific American
1924-11 Scientific American
1924-12 Scientific American
1925-02 Cotton
1925-04 Scientific American
1926-02 Cotton
1926-04-24 Textile World
1926-09 Cotton
1926-10 Cotton
1926-12 Cotton

1928, Veeder-Root, Inc.

1935-02 Cotton
1937-07 Allen's Red Book - W. D. Manufacturing Co
1946-05 Connecticut Industry
1949-06-11 Business Week
1950-04-08 Business Week
1950-09-06 National Petroleum News
1951-10 Connecticut Industry
1956-05 Textile World
1959-08 Industrial Quality Control 1
1959-08 Industrial Quality Control 2
1960-04 Connecticut Industry


The inscription on the front of the counter lists a 1891 patent which is by Charles J. Root. I have not found any patents for the older version of the Elm City Counter.

PatentFiling datePriority dateNameDescription
US 450,03927-10-189007-04-1891Charles J. RootCounter-register


The Science Museum Group includes an Elm City Counter.
Worthpoint lists many Elm City Counters, including ones by George Hubbard, by George Ives, and by Veeder-Root.
Rechnen Ohne Strom has a 4-digit Elm City Counter.
Veeder-Root still exists and makes products for handling and dispensing fuel, including still some mechanical counters.

© Copyright 2021 Jaap Scherphuis, .