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Marchant calculators: From pinwheel to SCM

Marchant pinwheelThe Marchant 1911 model was a derivative of the Odhner pinwheel design, with controls the same, but adding a crank for clearing the added number register.

Willgodt T. Odhner, St. Petersburg, Russia, invented his calculator in 1874 and died in 1905. The 1917 Russian Revolution caused manufacture of the Odhner machine to go to Sweden, initiated by Willgodt's sons, Alexander and George, and his nephew, Valentine Odhner. (See "Tiny calculator is of European homage") Marchant's first two models were the "Pony" and the "Standard." In 1923 Marchant stopped using the Odhner pin-wheel mechanism in 1923 and used a proportional wheel mechanism. (To see how the calculators worked, click here).

Calculators from two locations
Early Marchant calculators were produced at a plant located in the 1400 block of Powell St., Oakland, Calif., later in another location at 6701 San Pablo, Oakland, according to Ernie Jorgenson, who worked for Marchant 23 years beginning in 1953.

"As I look back on my years with the Marchant Calculating Machine Company, I look at the best working years of my life," Jorgenson said. "We were out on our own, no one 'breathing down our neck,' and the paycheck was always in the P.O. Box on Saturday morning. We had a great product in the Marchant Electro-Mechanical Calculator.

Jorgenson started working for Marchant in Eugene, Ore. "The early Marchants such as the XL - EEG9,s - Pony Models were produced from the early part of the century until the early 1930's," Jorgenson said. "It is my understanding that the first 'Silent Speed' machine entered production in 1932, that would be the 8D's - 8M's, - CR8M - ACR8M - ACTOM.. Manufacturing of the FA Figuremaster-Figurematic line began in about 1948. These machines were painted with green on the side/front and back covers with a gray carriage cover."

It was on-the-job training at a training school in Pittsburgh,Pa. Later, there were training centers in Oakland and Columbia, S.C., Jorgenson said. He was soon transferred to the Salem, Ore., Branch, where he said he learned to repair the machines. Then 18 months later, he was transferred to his current town, Lewiston, Idaho, where he established a new office and become the service supervisor. He serviced and sold Marchants in Lewiston, and during his tenure, Marchant released a number of new models in the Figurematic and Figuremaster lines.

Ten Key Matic machine
In the '50s, Marchant also produced the TKM, or Ten Key Matic, a 10-key drum-type calculator built by Hammond in Germany. Marchant acquired the Johnson Adding Maching Company in 1958, starting with a Model A-11 and eventually painted Marchant green in two models, the 900 and 1100.

"In 1958, Marchant merged with Smith Corona to form the SCM Corporation," Jorgenson said. "the SCM logo would soon appear on paint cans, home appliances and food items, as well as their office products lines."

SCM also acquired the Allied Paper company and release the Model 55 electro-static liquid copy machine built in Skoie, Illinois. In 1963, Marchant moved the calculator factory from Oakland Calif., to Orangeburg, S.C. During this time they released the suchsModels as the CMF - CM - CDF - CD and SKwith new, more modern tan covers, such Models as the CMF, CM, CDF, CD and SK. The new line was called "model consolidation."

"The machines shipped from the Orangeburg plant fell short of the standards we came to expect from Oakland," Jorgenson said. "I clearly recall receiving machines with spare parts enclosed in the shipping carton with instruction to replace these parts before selling the machine."

On Thursday, October 11, 1973, Jorgenson received a call from the San Francisco District Sales Office instructing him to be in San Francisco on Friday morning, Oct. 12. "When I arrived at the hotel Thursday night, all the managers from the West Coast were there. We were sure what we all expected was about to come true, and it did. At a meeting on Friday we were all dismissed with 2 weeks pay, and so ended 23 years of service. They did however, for a short time, continue to operated their branch offices while trying to build a dealer organization."

Editor's Note: The Nasdaq stock exchange recently notified Smith Corona that the office equipment supplier no longer meets its financial requirements and will not be traded on the exchange. It is not the first such action. After a Smith-Corona bankruptcy in the mid-90s devalued the stock, the New York Stock Exchange had dropped the stock from its listing after Smith Corona's bankruptcy reorganization plan proposed making the stock worthless. The company has about 50 workers.

ErnieErnie Jorgenson is also the subject of a previous "Yesterday's Office" story, "Snake Winds Past Hometown of Calculator Collector". 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 His Web site, "Office Machine Americana," which offers office equipment (primarily calculator) manuals, is at

Related Web links:

"Notes on Monroe and Marchant" by Nicholas Bodley

"My Years with Marchant" by Ernie Jorgenson

Calculating machines (information on how they work)

"Collecting Calculators" Web site by Guy Ball"

Computer History Association of California: history of calculators and computing

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