Who was Jehu Hatfield?

Jehu Hatfield was an American inventor known for producing an incredible calculator used in money calculations. On May 6, 1844, he took out a US patent №3574 for a machine for computing interest, measuring lumber, and for other purposes. It is unknown how many devices were produced, but at least one managed to survive to our time (see the photo bellow).

Jehu Hatfield’s Machine for Computing Interest (photo: Renee Lando)

Early Life 

Jehu Hatfield was born on June 16, 1806, in Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. He was the 6th child of John Hatfield, Jr. (1745-1813) and his third wife, Nancy Berryhill (1766-1850).

His father was a prosperous dairy farmer in Dauphin County. Unfortunately, he died in1813, leaving behind one of his wives and thirteen children (two had passed). John Hatfield sired five children from the first marriage, two from the second, and eight from the third. Although some people think Jehu Hatfield might be closely related to Aaron Hatfield from Pennsylvania (invented Machine for adding numbers), they are not connected.

Jehu stayed on their farm for some years before relocating to New York State when he reached adulthood.


Spittoon and Pottery Making Business

Jehu Hatfield worked in a spittoon and pottery-making business in Mechanicville around 1830. As he was working in the industry, Jehu and his friend Joll Farnam saw a business opportunity from some French fire-sticks offered for sale on the New York docks. They also decided to establish a massive match-making operation in the USA. 

Jehu cracked the chemical formula that ignited the devices and was even granted a patent in this area (US Patent №219, 1837). With his friend Farnam, they claimed to have invented the first friction matches, widely known as locofocos. 

However, jehu’s invention was unsuccessful because of a minor technical filing error. This exposed their beautiful ideas to their competitors, who were eying for their remarkable invention. The Market failed, So Hatfield quickly abandoned his original venture to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

What did Jehu Hatfield Invent?

Machine for Computing Interest

On May 6, 1844, Jehu Hatfield had an invention idea; hence, took out a US patent №3574 for a machine for computing interest, measuring lumber, and other purposes. Hatfield wanted to provide a machine with a quick calculating mechanism. It is unknown how many devices were produced, but at least one managed to survive today.

Jehu Hatfield
Jehu Hatfield’s Machine (the patent drawing)

The device is housed in a Mahogany Veneer over Pine case, similar to the shelf clock cases made in the 1840s. It has a door with a glass on the top side and blue colored paper on its lower half. 

Hatfield’s Machine consists of a vertical revolving cylinder (marked with A), with vertical parallel columns of figures on its outer surface. The numbers represent the interest on the several sums shown in a stationary column on a surrounding case. The machine has a vertical circular scale or dial placed at its front point (similar to a clock face), which indicates the days of the month with an index hand or pointer. They are all operated by the cylinder and connected by mitre wheels.

A turned wooden knob operates the calculating mechanism on the left side of the case. When the knob is turned, the pointer on the dial is directed to various “Months” and “Days.” At the same time, the hand in the upper section of the case spins the vertical cylinder in the lower case to reveal the “Principal Dollars” and “Principal Cents.” The results are visible through the opening in the blue paper placed on the door.

Jehu Hatfield
Hatfield’s Machine with open front door (photo: Renee Lando)

Jehu Hatfield: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life

Net Worth

Nothing is known about Jehus’ net worth. 


Jehu Hatfield was married to Harriet Hatfield at an early age. Later, he married Phebe Ann Wood (1804-1897) in Rensselaerville, New York. The new couple settled in Mechanicville, New York.


Jehu Hatfield married too young to Harriet Hatfield and the couple had a daughter, but for some reason they obtained a divorce by act of the Pennsylvania legislature in April, 1833. Nothing is shared as to why the two decided to part ways.


Jehu sired a daughter in his first marriage. He later had three children with Phebe Ann which were; Mary E. (1835), Charles Berryhill (1838), and Ann Eliza (1842).


Jehu Hatfield died on April 23, 1871, in Troy, New York.

Jehu Hatfield: Awards and Achievements

No award is linked to Jehu Hatfield.

Jehu Hatfield – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who was Jehu Hatfield?

Jehu Hatfield was among the best American inventors to produce the effective calculating machine.

What did Jehu Hatfield invent?

Jehu invented the Machine for computing interest. The machine consisted of a vertical revolving cylinder (marked with A), having on its outer surface vertical parallel columns of figures, representing the interest on the several sums shown in a stationary column on a surrounding case.

How did Jehu Hatfield invent his Machine for computing interest?

Hatfield’s Machine was made of simple Mahogany wood. He added a cylinder to control the operations of the calculator. Also, He provided a wooden knob to control the calculating mechanism, where one could rotate the figures and perform different calculations. Finally, he produced a blue-colored paper on the device to show results.

When was Jehu Hatfield born?

Jehu Hatfield was born on 16 June, 1806, in Middle Paxton township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, as 6th child from the third marriage of John Hatfield, Jr. (1745-1813) and his third wife Nancy Berryhill (1766-1850).

When did Jehu Hatfield die?

Jehu Hatfield died on 23 April 1871, in Troy, New York.

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More from History-Computer

  • Available here: https://www.datamp.org/patents/search/xrefPerson.php?id=73756
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