Reuben Rodney James – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

grain meter

Reuben Rodney James – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions

Key Points

  • Reuben R. James was an American inventor who lived in the late nineteenth century.
  • He is most famous for inventing an adding machine in 1878 and a grain meter in 1881.
  • In addition to inventing machines, he was a farmer and owned a woolen mill.

Who was Reuben Rodney James?

Reuben Rodney James worked as a farmer and in a woolen mill. He also invented an adding machine and a grain meter. He received a patent for his adding machine invention in 1878 and for the grain meter in 1881. In 1857 Reuben Rodney James married Rebecca Moore (1832-1907) and eventually had six children. James passed away on January 25, 1904.

Early life

Reuben Rodney James was born in Rising Sun, Indiana on August 21, 1826. He was born to Henry James (1797-1880) and Rebecca Hatch Athearn (1805-1834). Reuben was the first child in the family to survive. After the early death of his mother Rebecca in August 1834, his father married Amelia Maria Disney. Together they had four more children.

Quick Facts

Full Name
Reuben Rodney James
August 21, 1826
January 25, 1904
Net Worth
Place of Birth
Rising Sun, Indiana
Invented an adding machine and a grain meter


Phase 1

The United States Census records report that Reuben Rodney James was a farmer in 1850 and 1860. He was then the proprietor of a woolen mill in Rising Sun, Indiana in 1870. 

Phase 2

Later in his life, James began working on and inventing mathematical devices. Reuben Rodney James invented an adding machine and a grain meter. He eventually received a patent for both devices. 

What Did Reuben Rodney James Invent?

Invention 1

Reuben Rodney James took out a US Patent №209690 for an adding machine on November 5, 1878. It appears that the device never went into production and that only the patent model survived to the present time. It is now the property of the Smithsonian National Museum

The machine is a wood, metal, cork, and paper device, with measurements: 21.5 cm x 20.2 cm x 20.2 cm.

The device had eight toothed revolving counting wheels that were loosely mounted and rotated on a common axis. Around the periphery of each wheel, the digits from 0 to 9 were printed repeatedly. Attached to each cylinder was a toothed revolving disc. The machine had a wooden case with a tin cover over the wheels. On the cover, next to each wheel, there was a slip of paper labeled with the numbers from 1 to 9. To enter a number, the operator placed his finger at the tooth next to the digit on the appropriate paper slip and rotated forward. The sum appeared in slots in the metal cover, near the top of the machine.

Each counting wheel had four lateral inclines or cams linked to a weighted pawl lever, to engage the next wheel on the left, to carry ten when the numbers added on the wheel on the right exceed ten.

Invention 2

His second invention was a grain meter. Reuben James and his fellow Rising Sun resident Mirabeau Norman Lynn took out a patent (US Patent №238122) for the grain meter in 1881. The invention was for weighing, measuring, and then registering grain as it passed through the device. A novel registering mechanism was used to keep an accurate count of the grain passing through the machine. This kept track of the bushels or weight of the grain. The device consisted of several numeral wheels that revolved with the help of a ratchet and locking mechanism. The machine contained a sliding gate, a chute board, and buckets that were suspended from the opposite sides of a balance beam.

Many other grain meters were patented after the device was invented by James. It is likely that the grain meter James patented inspired other inventors and contributed to later inventions for measuring and metering grain.

Reuben Rodney James: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life

In 1857 Reuben Rodney James was married to Rebecca Moore (1832-1907). They had six children:

  • Harry (1858-1885) 
  • Carrie (b. 1860) 
  • Mary Mollie (b. 1863) 
  • George (b. 1870) 
  • Nellie (b. 1873) 
  • Fanny (b. 1874)


Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Reuben Rodney James?

Reuben Rodney James was an individual from Indiana who started his early career farming and went on to invent an adding machine and a grain meter and received a patent for both.

What did Reuben Rodney James invent?

Reuben Rodney James invented an adding machine and a grain meter.

When was Reuben Rodney James born?

Reuben Rodney James was born on August 21, 1826.

When did Reuben Rodney James die?

Reuben Rodney James died on January 25, 1904.

To top