Andrew Stark – Complete Biography, History, and More

Andrew Stark

Andrew Stark – Complete Biography, History, and More

Key Points:

  • Besides adding machines, Stark created inventions from several industries.
  • His second adding machine had a finger-key representing each numbered digit.
  • The nine key was actually a fixed key.

The American Andrew Stark (1852-1920) from Chicago was a prolific inventor from the late 1800s and early 1900s. He was a holder of quite a few patents for agricultural machines and furniture, like grain binders, harvesters, railway facilities, folding beds, sofas, fiber vessels, etc.

In 1884, Andrew Stark patented two rather interesting adding machines which deserve our attention. Actually, the first patent (US patent №308528) of Stark was assigned to La Verne Noyes (another engineer, inventor, and businessman from Chicago), while in the second patent (US patent №308570) La Verne Noyes is specified as a coinventor and assignee.

Quick Facts

Full Name
Andrew Stark
February 16, 1920
Elizabeth (b. 1879), Lillie (b. 1880), and Jacob (b. 1882)
Place of Birth
Chicago, Illinois
Fields of Expertise
[“Adding Machines”]

The first adding machine of Stark and Noyes has a series of numeral wheels (see the lower patent drawings), each provided with three sets of figures running from one to nine and zero.

Pivotally mounted upon the axis of the numeral wheels at each end are sector gears E1 and E4, in which are pivoted a square shaft, extended from one arm to the other across the face of the numeral wheels. The shaft is claimed to be held in its normal position by a spring so that a pawl, E2, shiftable mounted on the shaft, designed to ratchet or actuate the numeral wheels forward, may engage with any one of the numeral wheels ratchets.

Andrew Stark
One of Andrew Stark’s Patents for an Adding Machine.

Who Was Andrew Stark?

Andrew Stark was an Amerian inventor from Chicago that was born in 1852. Andrew is known for holding several interesting patents across a variety of fields. Among them include a cord-knotter patent for grain binders, folding beds, a rail fastening system for railroad ties, and two early versions of mechanical calculators.

What Did Andrew Stark Invent?

Among Andrew Stark’s many inventions were two patents for adding machines dated November 25, 1884. Both are filed with another Inventor from Chicago, IL, La Verne Noyes. This was before adding machines like the Centigraph from Arthur Ewing Shattuck, which was patented in 1891.

La Verne Noyes is listed as a co-inventor of US patent No. 308,570, an adding machine with a finger-key for each numerical digit. The design relied on a pawl cylinder and plates along with a number wheel. A thumb screw was used to help reset the adding machine back to zero in this straightforward, yet intricate design.

Andrew Stark's first machine patent drawings
Andrew Stark’s first machine patent drawings.

A bail (marked) is pivoted to standards A1 of the frame of the device and is provided with two radial racks D3, which mesh with the sector gears E1. It may be conceived that the act of depressing the bail will cause the actuating pawl E2 to operate whichever numeral wheels it engages the ratchet of.

The bail is held in its normal position by a spring D2 and is provided with nine keys or finger pieces, eight of which co-act with the stepped plate, to regulate the additive degree of rotation given to the numeral wheels while the ninth has a fixed relation with the bail and the bail itself is stopped.

The keys, marked from one to eight, are pivoted to the bail in such a manner that their normal relation to the bail will allow them to pass by the steps on the stepped plate when the bail is depressed by the fixed nine key. However, when any one of the keys numbered from one to eight is depressed, the lower end of the shank of the key will tilt rearward. As the bail is depressed, it offers a stop against the respective step of the plate arranged in its path thus stopping further action of the actuating pawl E2, but offering nothing to prevent the continuation of the force of momentum set up in the numeral wheels by the key action.

The carry of the tens transfer device is of the same order as that described in the machines of Pascal and Hill; that is, a one-step ratchet motion actuated by a cam lug or pin from the lower wheel. The carry transfer device consists of the lever, and pawl f4, acting on the ratchet of the upper wheel which is operated by the cam lugs b5, of the lower wheel acting on the arms f1 and f2 of the lever.

The first machine of Stark was provided with but one set of keys, but the arrangement for shifting the driving ratchet pawl E2, from one order to another, so that the action of the keys may rotate anyone of the numeral wheels, gave the machine greater capacity than the single digit adders. Obviously, there were no means provided by which the rotation of numeral wheels could be controlled, it was merely a device for rotating numeral wheels and was therefore lacking in the features that would give it a right to the title of an adding machine.

The second adding machine of Stark/Noyes (US patent №308570 from 25 Nov. 1884, granted to Andrew Stark and La Verne W. Noyes, assigned to Noyes) has a different mechanism (see the lower patent drawings).

In operating the machine, starting with all the number-wheels so set that the zeros are visible through the rift S, the pawl-cylinder being so set that the top pawl will be in engagement with the ratchet-wheel opposite it—which is the unit wheel-and keys corresponding to the numbers to be added in the units-column being successively struck and depressed, the process of registering the sum and carrying will proceed to any extent, the carrying being automatically effected to succeeding columns, however many figures the sum of the column being added may contain. When the units-column has been added, the pawl-cylinder should be rotated one notch, thereby bringing the pawl which is horizontally opposite the second or tens number-wheel into engagement with that wheel. Proceeding as before with the figures on this column, the addition, and proper carrying will be automatically effected, the units column remaining undisturbed, and in like manner with each successive column until the entire sum is ascertained.

Andrew Stark's second machine patent drawings.
Andrew Stark’s second machine patent drawings.
Andrew Stark's second machine patent drawing.
Andrew Stark’s second machine patent drawing.

To reset the machine at zero, rotate the pawl-cylinder until the line of pawls K’ is at the front. These pawls, alternating with the pawls of the spiral series K, are in such a vertical position as to engage with the carrying teeth of the number wheels. Now, using the thumb-screw as a handle, the plate E being rotated a full quarter-turn, the distance of ten ratchet-teeth, the pawls K’ will bring the carrying-teeth of the entire series of number-wheels into line, and so will bring all the zeros into line. We provide a pin, on the plate E and the two stops s’ on the rim, so as to limit the rotation of the plate E to the proper distance to cover ten ratchet-teeth, and to end the motion at such point as will leave the zero-line at the rift S, thus leaving the register at zero, as at starting.

Little is known about the main inventor—Andrew Stark, but there is more info about the coinventor—La Verne Noyes (see the biography of La Verne Noyes).

Andrew Stark was born on 19 March 1852, in Chicago, Illinois, as the second child of German Americans John (Johann) (born in 1826 in Bavaria) and Catherine (b. 1824 in Bavaria) Stark. John Stark was a farmer, and besides Andrew, the family had also: Barbara (b. 1851), John (b. 1854), Valentin (b. 1857), Charles (b. 1859), Joseph (b. 1861), Philip (b. 1862), and Catherine (b. 1864).

On 17 April 1877, Andrew Stark married Elizabeth Klos (18 Sep. 1856–23 Nov. 1932), also from a German American family. They had three children: Elizabeth (b. 1879), Lillie (b. 1880), and Jacob (b. 1882).

In the 1880 US census, Andrew Stark’s occupation is specified as a cabinet maker.

Andrew Stark lived all his life in Chicago, where he died on February 16, 1920, and was buried in Saint Boniface Cemetery.

Andrew Stark

Mechanical parts of clocks and retro machines, graphics and math formulas.

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