The Precise adding machine
Advertisements and articles
The Precise adding machine is a small co-axial adder. It has 7 digits in its register, each connected to a toothed wheel that can be moved using a stylus. When not in use the stylus can be stored in a hole at the lower front of the machine.
The carry mechanism uses springs, and its their stored energy that increments the next wheel, so it takes no extra effort by the user when a carry occurs. There is a clearing lever on the right hand side. Pushing this clearing lever down moves all the digits to 9, and releasing it triggers a carry that causes a rollover that sets everything to zero. The text on my machine reads:
Made in Chicago U.S.A.
Pat. No. 2402549 Other Pats. Pend.
E.C.A. Manufacturing Corporation - Chicago
There is no serial number. The case is made of thick cast iron, as is the clearing handle, but the rest of the mechanism is mostly made cheaply from thin folded metal plate. I think the rubber feet are not original.
Here is a video where I demonstrate the Precise adding machine.
This machine was in production for only 3 or 4 years, from 1946 till about 1949, and yet at first sight there seem to have been two or even three manufacturers. Below is what I have been able to deduce from advertisements and articles, combined with some information from the wonderful article from the Made in Chicago Museum.
The American Photo Laboratories was a company that made equipment for photographers. It seems to have started in the late 1930s, and was located on 28 N. Loomis Street, Chicago. Their most popular product was the "Precise" guillotine paper trimmer. In about 1942 the company became the Precise Developments Company, and the patent for the Precise adder was filed in December 1942. The adder did not go into production however, as for the next few years the company was mostly producing items for the war effort.
In 1946 the patent was granted and production of the adder began. This version of the adder has a lens over the register that should make the digits larger and easier to read. It either has no maker's name or has Precise Developments Company on it.
The Electric Corporation of America was founded by Leo Maranz in 1942. He was a mechanical engineer who specialised in refrigeration, and intended to manufacture a freezer he had developed while working for the Tuthill Freezer Company. It would take a while before it got to make electrical products - in fact, it first made wooden and metal toys - so the company used the name E.C.A. Toys, or E.C.A. Manufacturing Company. The factory/warehouse was first located at 222 West Monroe, and then at 2518 West Montrose Avenue in Chicago. The latter building used to house the toy maker Playskool, so that may be why it was easy to make toys.
The activities of E.C.A. are a little unclear. I believe that they took on manufacturing jobs for other companies, including the manufacturing of the Precise adder. They also set up a company Allied Wholesalers or Nationwide Wholesalers, based at the same address, and this company presumably sold E.C.A.'s products, but also sold the Precise adder in 1947.
In 1948 it was announced that Precise Developments Company changed address from 28 N. Loomis to 2518 W. Montrose. From that moment on there is no more mention of that company, while the American Photo Laboratories re-emerged at the N. Loomis address. It looks to me as if they actually just sold off the rights to the Precise adder to E.C.A., given that the latter was already making and distributing it. American Photo Laboratories continued to make and sell photo equipment such as the paper trimmer until the 1960s, and they still used the brand name "Precise", though it seems that they could no longer use the cursive letter logo.
E.C.A. continued to make the Precise adder, now marking them with the name E.C.A. Manufacturing Company. The plastic lens over the register was changed to be flat, so that it became just a window without magnification. At some point the manufacturer name changed to Metrograph Corporation, still located at the same address of course, and some of these adders are named Metro instead of Precise.
By 1949 E.C.A. was also making freezers, which Leo Maranz was trying to sell. He joined forces with Harry Axene, the man who set up the franchising of the Dairy Queen brand. Together they created the Tastee-Freez company and franchise in 1950, while E.C.A turned into the Freez-King Corporation which almost exclusively made freezers and soft-serve ice cream machines. After Leo Maranz retired, he became an artist, making geometric abstract wall art from paper, plexiglass, and polystyrene.
Here are a few ads by the American Photo Laboratories, and of the Precise Developments Company which shows the origin of the Precise brand and logo before the development of the adder.
Here are a few ads and articles about the Electric Corp. of America (E.C.A.) before they got involved in making the adding machine.
Here are a few articles and ads for the adder by the Precise Developments Company and resellers.
Here are a few articles and ads for the adder and other products sold from the 2518 W. Montrose address, under the name Nationwide Wholesalers, Nationwide Sales Co., or Nationwide Adding Machine Co.. These are all offshoots of E.C.A.. Also included are ads by a few contempary resellers, and the announcement that Precise Developments had moved.
From this point the adder is officially made and sold by E.C.A.. Note that they were also working on compressors, presumably building up the expertise and capability to manufacture Leo Marantz's freezers.
The adder was now being made by Metrograph. This may have been in preparation for the switch to freezer manufacturing, to allow the adder manufacturing to be split off or sold. I have not found any later ads for the adder, so I assume that this did not happen and the adder production was halted.
A few ads by the American Photo Laboratories after they sold off the Precise adder.
Here are a few ads and articles related to the Tastee-Freez franchise, Freez-King freezers, and other products.
There is one patent number on the machine itself, and I have not found any other patents. This patent is by Ora R. Hartom, about whom I have found no other information.
|Patent||Filing date||Publish date||Name||Description|
|US 2,402,549||07-12-1942||25-06-1946||Ora R. Hartom||Adding machine|
Rechner Lexikon has a page for the
Made in Chicago Museum has a wonderful article about the history of E.C.A..
The Arithmeum has a Precise adding machine.
Christian-M. Hamann has a Precise adding machine including photos of its restoration.
RetroCalculators has a Precise adder.
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