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Gem / Golden Gem

The Golden Gem

The Golden Gem
Articles and Advertisements

The Golden Gem

The Golden Gem is a chain adder which was made in the USA from about 1904 until the 1930s, possibly even until the 1950s. My Golden Gem has serial number 48988, which means it is probably from about 1912. It comes with a morocco leather case, and a stylus made of Bakelite with a metal tip.

The Golden Gem, front
The Golden Gem, front
The Golden Gem, on stand
The Golden Gem, on stand, rear
The Golden Gem, side inscription
The Golden Gem, front
The Golden Gem, stylus
The Golden Gem, first label
The Golden Gem, second label
The Golden Gem, patent inscription
The Golden Gem, case
The Golden Gem, case side
The Golden Gem, case, open, full
The Golden Gem, case, open, empty

It has a 7-digit register on an axle inside the top of the machine. This is the most common size, but there was a more expensive 9-digit version as well. Each wheel is connected via a chain belt to a wheel on an axle at the bottom. On the front there are vertical slots that give access to these chains, and which have the digits 1 to 9 printed alongside. You can insert a stylus into the link of a chain next to a digit, and pull it all the way down to the bottom of the slot. This adds the chosen digit to that digit in the register, and the register will automatically carry when a digit exceeds 9.

The Golden Gem, inside
The Golden Gem, inside
The Golden Gem, inside, close-up

There is a knob at the bottom right, and by turning it the register can be reset. The lower axle catches hold of a wheel only at one spot in the wheel's revolution, so as you twist the knob eventually all the wheels begin to move at which point all the digits in the register are the same. Then simply continue turning until all the digits in the register show zero.

The register only turns one way, so subtraction is not possible except through complementary digits. Only late versions of the Golden Gem have the complementary digits shown next to the slots.

I recently acquired another Golden Gem. This one has serial number 400,692 so it was made much later than my other one, though it is almost identical. The main differences are that it has a single bracket for a stand instead of two separate legs, and that there is no text engraved on the side next to the serial number. It comes in a nice presentation box. Presumably the plastic stylus is not original.




The Golden Gem was designed by Abraham Isaac Gancher, Nobyoshi H Kodama, and Albert T. Zabriskie in 1902-1906. Gancher set up the Automatic Adding Machine Company to market the machine. At first it was merely called "Gem", and it had a separate stand that it was slid into. Around 1910 a version was made that was set in a wooden box. In 1912 it was renamed the Golden Gem, and it was given foldable legs instead. After that, the changes seem relatively minor. There were other models as well, including larger versions with more digits, optionally with complementary digits shown next to the chains, and also versions with fractions or for feet and inches. The standard 7-digit version is by far the most common.

The Golden Gem was very successful, and from the serial numbers it seems more than 400,000 of them were produced. It is unclear when production ended, but so many were made that it seems likely to have continued through the 1930s and possibly into the 1940s. Note however that the advertising seems to have dried up in the mid 1920s after about 200,000 had been made.

The Automatic Adding Machine Company also produced a tally counter. It was basically the same as the Golden Gem, except it had 5 digits, had shorter chains, and instead of the slots in the front there was a lever on the right that incremented the units digit. Abraham Gancher also designed a version with a printing mechanism, but this was even less successful than the counter.

Articles and Advertisements

Here are a few articles about the Golden Gem or Abraham Gancher found on online archives.

1905 Tools of Business - Gem
1909 Nicholson On Factory Organization and Costs
1911-12 Bankers Magazine
1912-09 Architecture and Building
1914-07 Library Journal
1915-03 Bookseller and Stationer
1915-06-30 Engineering and Contracting
1918 History of Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley Connecticut
1925 Ernst Martin
1930-08-14 The Times Tribune (Scranton Pennsylvania)
1932-10-23 The Philadelhpia Inquirer (Pennsylvania)
1933-02-22 The Mercury
1950-07-06 Times Herald (Olean New York)
1954-07-27 Buffalo Evening News (New York)
1960-01-02 The Buffalo News (New York)

Here are some of the adverts for the (Golden) Gem. It is interesting that Gancher changed his initials depending on the magazine or newspaper so as to track which adverts were successful. For example, readers of Out West magazine would write to O.W. Gancher for information about the Gem, while readers of Scientific American wrote to A. F. Gancher.

From these adverts we can construct the following time line:

1906-07: "Gem" Adding Machine on the market. Has metal stand.
1906-08: Clearing wheel added on upper axle.
1906-10: Clearing wheel moved to lower axle.
1907-10: Over 15,000 in use.
1910-04: The 1910 model is built into a wooden box.
1910-05: Over 23,000 in use.
1912-07: Over 30,000 in use. "Golden Gem" with folding legs, pebbled morocco leather case.
1913-02: Over 60,000 in use.
1913-10: Over 80,000 in use.
1914-12: Over 100,000 in use.
1921-09: Single bracket instead of two legs.
1925-02: Over 200,000 in use.

1906-07 business man's magazine
1906-08 business man's magazine
1906-09 business man's magazine
1906-10 business man's magazine
1906-10-27 Scientific American
1906-11 business man's magazine
1906-12 business man's magazine
1907-03-09 The Topeka State Journal (Kansas)
1907-04 Popular Mechanics
1907-04-05 Madison County Record (Huntsville Arkansas)
1907-05-17 Madison County Record (Huntsville Arkansas)
1907-06-22 Scientific American
1907-06-29 The Merchants Journal (Topeka Kansas)
1907-07-07 Evening Star
1907-08 Busymans
1907-08-30 Retail Grocers Advocate
1907-09 Busyman's magazine
1907-09 Popular Mechanics
1907-09-21 Scientific American
1907-10 Popular Mechanics
1907-11-08 The Daily Journal (New Bern North Carolina)
1907-11-23 The Literary Digest
1908-03 Popular Mechanics
1908-03 The Engineering Digest
1908-04-12 The San Francisco Examiner (California)
1908-04-16 The San Francisco Call (California)
1908-04-16 The San Francisco call
1908-04-26 The Topeka Daily Capital (Kansas)
1908-06 Popular Mechanics
1908-10 McClures
1908-10-03 Colliers
1909-01 McClure's Magazine
1909-02 Pacific monthly
1909-09 Pacific monthly
1909-09-01 The Southwestern Grain and Flour Journal (Wichita Kansas)
1909-10 Popular Mechanics
1910-04 Popular Mechanics
1910-05-05 The Washington times
1911-03 Popular Mechanics
1912-07 Popular Mechanics
1912-09-28 The Hutchinson Wholesaler (Kansas)
1912-10 American Homes and Gardens
1912-10-13 The Buffalo Times (New York)
1912-12-02 The Southwestern Grain and Flour Journal (Wichita Kansas)
1913 World Almanac and Encyclopedia
1913-01 Popular Mechanics
1913-02-01 The Literary Digest
1913-03-15 The Literary Digest
1913-03-29 The Literary Digest
1913-04 Popular Mechanics
1913-04-26 The Literary Digest
1913-05 Popular Mechanics
1913-06-21 The Literary Digest
1913-07-16 Arizona republican
1913-07-19 Arizona Republican (Phoenix Arizona)
1913-09 Out West
1913-10 Popular Mechanics
1914-01-23 Peninsula Enterprise (Virginia)
1914-02-14 The Literary Digest
1914-12-19 The Duluth Herald
1915-01-16 The Literary Digest
1915-04-17 The Literary Digest
1916 Montgomery Ward Catalog
1916-03 Popular Mechanics
1916-03-18 The Literary Digest
1916-06-03 The Literary Digest
1918-10-25 De Preanger-bode
1920 Montgomery Ward Catalog
1921 Montgomery Ward Catalog
1922 Montgomery Ward Catalog
1925-02 Popular Mechanics


PatentFiling datePublish dateNameDescription
US 753,58604-09-190201-03-1904Nobyoshi H. KodamaGem predecessor
See also CA 94,903
US 816,34219-01-190527-03-1906Nobyoshi H. Kodama, Abraham I. GancherGem with clearing knob on top axle
US 847,75928-07-190619-03-1907Abraham I. Gancher, Albert T. ZabriskieGem final design
See also AT 33,197 B, GB 1907 17,161
US 1,015,30718-05-191131-01-1912Abraham I. GancherAdding machine
US 1,047,19927-09-191117-12-1912Abraham I. GancherAdding and listing machine
US 1,178,22712-11-191304-04-1916Abraham I. GancherAdding, printing, receipting machine


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