Ludlum patent drawings
Top and side view of the drawing accompanying Albert Ludlum’s filing for a patent for the Adding Machine that he invented.

Ludlum patent drawings
Albert Ludlum’s adding machine, which could also print out the result on paper.

Who was Albert C. Ludlum? 

Born in 1867, Albert C. Ludlum was an American engineer, inventor, and patent holder. In 1906, he founded the New York Engineering Co., of which he was President until his death in 1928. Ludlum is best known for his organizing work behind seven large dredging projects around the United States and his inventions of the Ludlum water-tube boiler and numerous other mechanical devices used for gold dredging and prospecting. 

Quick Facts

Full Name
Albert C. Ludlum
Birth
May 13, 1867
Death
February 15, 1928
Awards
  • Northern Mine Research Association Membership
Nationality
American
Place of Birth
Brooklyn, New York
Fields of Expertise
  • Mining
  • Gold Dredging
  • Gold Prospecting
Contributions
Ludlum water-tube boiler

Early Life 

Not much is known about Ludlum’s early life but he was educated in the New York public school system and graduated in 1883. 

Career

Federal National Shoe & Leather Bank of the City of New York

Upon graduation from public school, Ludlum advanced to one of his first jobs, spending six years working as a banker until 1889. 

Kennedy & Pierce Machinery

Once Ludlum’s time working at the bank was over, he made the shift toward sales and found work at Kennedy & Pierce Machinery. Ludlum would work his way up to general manager. 

James Beggs & Company

Ludlum would stay at Kennedy & Pierce until 1898 when he found employment with James Beggs & Co. During his time here, Ludlum found himself in charge of the company’s mining machinery department. It was here, with this opportunity, that would help lead Ludlum down the path of some of his multiple patents around the building of gold dredges. 

New York Engineering Company

Ludlum’s stay at James Beggs & Co. would end in 1906 when he established New York Engineering Co. As the founder and President, Ludlum would remain working here until his death. 

What Did Albert C. Ludlum Invent? 

Adding and Writing Machine

While many of his notable patents in the dredging and mining business would come later in his life, it was in 1887 that Ludlum filed for his Adding and Writing Machine patent. Patent No US384373 would be granted by the U.S. government in June 1888 and then again in 1891 when the patent was reissued. 

Piggybacking on designs that originated during the middle of the 19th century, Ludlum’s focus was essentially something that had the look and feel of a typewriter, but with ten keys and would print out results. Each number was attached to a wheel and when depressed, would print each figure on a rudimentary display. Composed of both ratchets and gears, the design would function similarly to typewriters of the same time period. In looking more closely at Ludlum’s design, there is the unfortunate reality that it would have resulted in failure for anyone typing at a high rate of speed. 

Had someone typed numbers too quickly and attempted to add multiple figures too quickly, Ludlum’s design would have struggled to keep up or failed altogether. Slower entries or key depressions might have worked, but that’s entirely dependent on each operator and it’s incredibly difficult to correctly gauge exactly how fast or slow one would need to depress each key for the mechanism of Ludlum’s design to function correctly. 

Ultimately, Ludlum’s overarching idea for his Adding and Writing Machine was relatively aligned with other products of the period. However, due to imperfections in the patent figures, it’s easy to deduce that the product would not have functioned as intended. 

Ludlum’s work would later be referenced by William W. Hopkins of St Louis in patent No. 517383. Hopkins would build on Ludlum’s design and later be one of the first to release a successful mass-market 10-key adding machine. 

Albert Ludlum: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life

Marriage

There is minimal information about his personal life but there are records showing Albert Ludlum married Edith F. Ludlum in 1890. After divorcing Edith, Ludlum would remarry in 1916 to Frances Ludlum to whom he would stay married until his death in 1928. There are no records indicating Ludlum fathered children with either of his wives.

Albert Ludlum: Awards and Achievements

Northern Mine Research Society Membership

Right before his death in 1927, Ludlum was elected a member of the Northern Mine Research Society. Thanks in part to his multiple patents around gold dredging, placer prospecting machines, and the Ludlum “water-tube boiler”, the organization granted him membership. 

Albert Ludlum FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who was Albert Ludlum? 

Albert Ludlum was an engineer, inventor, and business owner who successfully submitted multiple patents for his work in the mining business in the early 1900s.

What did Albert Ludlum invent? 

Along with multiple patent submissions in the mining industry, Ludlum is best known in the computer space for submitting a patent that would allow for additional functionality to a typewriter. This Adding and Writing Machine never successfully took hold as the patent itself left lots of open questions around the functionality of the mechanisms Ludlum hoped to incorporate within the existing typewriter design.

About the Author

More from History-Computer

  • Northern Mine Research Society Available here: https://www.nmrs.org.uk/resources/obituaries-of-members/obituaries-of-members-names-beginning-with-l/albert-c-ludlum/
  • Google Patents Available here: https://patents.google.com/patent/US384373A/en
  • New York Times Available here: https://www.nytimes.com/1928/02/17/archives/albert-c-ludlum-engineer-dies-at-60-inventor-and-manufacturer-of.html?ref=oembed
  • National Museum of American History Available here: https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/adding-machines/ten-keys-fewer
  • United States Patent Office Available here: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/d4/20/08/14d0f6b0a5aa91/US517383.pdf