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Snake Winds Past Hometown of Calculator Collector

By Neal McChristy

Living in an area of rivers rushing past mountains that compete with trees piercing into the high blue, Ernie Jorgenson usually makes his excursions into the world of antique typewriters, calculators and manuals rather than over the whitewater of Idaho's Snake River near where he lives.

This journey into manuals began four years ago when he found a number of Marchant manuals in his wood shop. He decided to sell them and said the response "surprised the heck out of us."

Jorgenson has established a World Wide Web site dealing with manuals of typewriters, calculators and adding machines and with antique machines -

He also repairs, cleans and refurbishes the Marchant machines. He has a collection of 50-60 antique machines, including Marchant, Corona and Comptometer.

Merger After Employment
"All I've ever worked in is the office-equipment business," Jorgenson said. He moved to the Northwest from his native Michigan in 1955.

The Smith-Corona company merged with the Marchant Calculator Co. in 1958, forming Smith-Corona-Marchant. Jorgenson worked in Eugene, Ore. He later went to Salem, Ore., and then to Lewiston. From 1967-69, he left Marchant and helped establish the Washington State University office-equipment service department.

He returned to Marchant then as sales manager over 23 counties in three states, based in Walla Walla, Wash.

"I always called it all of hell and half of Georgia," Jorgenson said. He described wintertime driving on slick roads in the mountains as "a bearcat."

Jorgenson worked for a dealer about a year and thny opened a branch of Datafax Systems. Last September, that company sold to IKON. "I worked for a short time for IKON, then retired," Jorgenson said.

While he was sometimes out in the "middle of nowhere" in his car, Jorgenson said certain attitudes made service of equipment easier.

"Everything is done here on the basis of a handshake," Jorgenson said "At least, it was then."

Smorgasbord of Manuals
The manuals Jorgenson offers include those on the Monroe, Friden, Marchant and Remington-Rand. He has manuals on the Burroughs glass-sided machine and the Curta. Jorgenson says he sends manuals worldwide.

He has some contacts steeped in the history of calculators, too. Jorgenson has been in correspondence with Eugene Felt, the great-grandson of Dorr Felt, who invented the prototype of a Comptometer in 1884 from meat skewers, rubber bands and a macaroni box. The descendant of the inventor, who lives in Ohio, is trying to get his grandfather into the Inventor's Hall of Fame.

Retirement has been busy for Jorgenson with people ordering the manuals, keeping Internet postings current and repairing the Marchant calculators in his shop.

Or sometimes he'll take an occasional visit to the Snake River to trout fish and view his scenic homeland.

"It is just magnificent," he said.

Web site:

Editor's Note: If you wish to contact Ernie Jorgenson, contact him at Office Machine Americana, P.O. Box 1161, Lewiston, Idaho 83501, tel. (208) 746-8325, or e-mail him at

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