Charles Labofish – Biography, History and Inventions

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Charles Labofish – Biography, History and Inventions

Charles Labofish – Biography, History and Inventions

Key Points:
  • Charles Labofish emigrated to the US from the Russian Empire in 1888, and held 15 US, Canada and British patents for his inventions, six of them being calculating machines.
  • He also owned patents for typewriters, cyclometers, a log-sawing machine, and an indicating device for bicycles.
  • Charles Labofish authored a book titled Labofish’s Catechism of Patents and Inventions, How Made.
Howard Aiken
Vintage photo of inventor Charles Labofish.

Charles Labofish

It seems Charles Schachan Labofish was from a German Jewish family, but he was born in Odessa, Russian Empire, in April, 1861 (most probably as Карл Лейбовиц). In 19th century Odessa was an important Russian town with a large Jewish population.

In 1884 Charles married to Rose Ethel Lamlec. Rose was born on 12 May 1864 (although on her tombstone is specified 1868, and she died on 3 March 1948 in Washington, D.C.), and their first child (William Harry) was born on 20 December 1885 in Odessa.

In middle 1880s the family of Charles Labofish led an easy life in Odessa, and Charles worked as a main representative of Singer Corporation, the famous American manufacturer of sewing machines. It was not long, however, before they had troubles.

The Jews in Russia were subject of anti-Semitism, and a series of pogroms (massacres) against Jews in Odessa occurred in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, 1886 and 1905. In the 1886 pogrom was killed the father of Rose Ethel, thus the family decided to leave Russia and to seek a more secured place for life.

They spent some time in Dunayevtsy (Dinovitz), another Russian town with a large Jewish population, where on 20 November 1887 was born their second child—Louis Willard. In 1888 they moved to Germany, and immigrated to America, settling initially in New York, then in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

In USA the family had two other children—John Paul (1896-1956) and Lillian Ethel (1898-1988). John Paul Labofish became a lawyer in Washington, and he was the grandfather of the famous American actor, filmmaker, and screenwriter Sylvester Stallone.

Charles Babbage in 1848
Rose Ethel Lamlec-Labofish and Lillian Ethel Labofish-Hearn.

Charles Labofish is best known as an inventor. In the 1890s he worked in a bicycle show in Washington, and invented some devices for bicycles such as an indicating device. He also designed a variety of other machines which included calculating machines, typewriters, a log-sawing machine, cyclometers., as well as several calculating devices (see calculating machines of Labofish). In total, he received 15 US, Canadian and British patents for his devices, six of them being calculating machines (US533361, US544360, US661058, US673877, CA51938, and GB190101736).

The patent drawing of the second calculating machine of Labofish
The patent drawing of the second calculating machine of Labofish. (US673877)

Besides owning multiple patents, Charles Labofish was an expert on the subject of obtaining patents in his day, and authored the book Labofish’s Catechism of Patents and Inventions, How Made: A Veritable School of Self-Instruction in Patents and Inventions, With Questions for Self-Examination, which is available through the Classic Reprint Series published by Forgotten Books.

Later Charles Labofish worked as a district judge, and attorney and counselor in patent causes. In 1911 he published another book, How to Win Fortune by Inventing.

Early in 1916 we found Charles Labofish in Chicago, where he got a divorce from his first wife and later he married Mary Watson Zimmerman (b. 1891:-) on 30 March 1916 in Lake County, Indiana.

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