1884: Thomas de Colmar Arithmometer Serial 2083 Model T1878 B

No. 2083, with 16-digit carriage, 8-slide input bars, frosted glass note panel door opening for period box containing red finished marker pins, in mahogany case with campaign style lacquered brass corners, in laid oval brass lid plaque inscribed E. H. Stone, mounted on adjustable cast iron and part polished mahogany angled table stand - 27.1/2in. (70cm) wide Won at Bonham’s Auction, London, 19 April 2011. Previously held by an owner living in Bath England who made available also a Layton sold at the same auction. Original finish.

This model T1878 B Thomas de Colmar arithmometer, serial 2083, was manufactured in 1884 in about the mid point of the model’s production (1878–1887). (See for example, the T1878 B held in the Museum of History of Science at the University of Oxford (www.mhs.ox.ac.uk Serial 2061) Of the Thomas Arithmometers produced between 1820 and 1887 (when Payen took over), 180 are known to still exist, with 110 of these in public collections, 51 in private collections (including this one) and a further 19 sold at auction with purchasers unknown.

This machine still works perfectly and bears a label to say that it was repaired and adjusted by W. F. Stanley and Company - a famous London instrument maker and at one time the largest instrument maker company in the world. (William F. Stanley 1829–1909 established his instrument design and manufacturing company which operated from his first catalogue in 1864, flotation in 1900 to July 1999 when it went into liquidation.)

The machine appears to have been re-mounted by Stanley in a better quality and stronger box (with campaign style brass corners, and fixed to a cast iron tilt frame for ease of use. The slider plate has been bolted to the box with four corner bolts to provide added security, especially when it tilts on its added hinges. In this sense this Thomas is a precursor to the later innovations under Payen when he added a (rather less robust) hinged tilt base to his machines (see for example serial - new system Payen 1379.) The mount added to this machine’s box probably followed Payen’s innovation responding to the added ease of use that this provided. This is the only known Thomas de Colmar arithmometer to be remounted with this improvement.

Monsieur Charles Xavier Thomas, a fire insurance businesman, and former military officer under Marshall Soult in Spain, was born in 1785 in Colmar, Alsace, France.

The first Thomas patent for his “arithmometer” was taken out in 1820 with a first machine built in 1822 by Devrine - a Paris watchmaker. The next machine known was a mention in the National Exhibition in Paris in 1844.

The Thomas arithmometer was not really reliable in terms of carry-over until the patented mechanism (1865) was introduced. which remained the reference for 50 years. Thomas died in May 1870 - by which time some 800 arithmometers had been made. After the death of Thomas his son, Thomas de Bojano took over manufacturing until his death in 1881, and then grandson, the Compte de Ronseray, continued manufacturing them under the management of Payen. By 1878 a total of 1500 had been constructed. In 1887 Payen took over and commenced manufacturing them under his own name at a rate of about 100 per year - of which 30 were six digit, 60 8 digit, and 10 twenty digit. From 1880, other manufacturers - Burkhardt, Layton, Saxonia, Bunzel, etc entered the market. http://www.arithmometre.org/Biographie/PageBiographieEnglish.html (and Gemmary, Otnes)

See also the diagram of the mechanism of the Thomas in 1862.

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