Who was Thomas Strode?

Thomas T. Strode was the second child in his family, born in Coatesville on 11 February 1810. His parents were William Strode (Dec. 26, 1782-Dec. 25, 1851), a farmer, and Elizabeth Strode (Jan. 7, 1787-Apr. 1, 1861). He had an elder brother, Richard (1808-1848), and a younger brother and 5 sisters—Elizabeth (b. 1818), Ruthanna (b. 1820), David James (1822-1848), Mary Ann (b. 1825), Hannah (b. 1830), and Caroline (b. 1833).

Thomas T. Strode was an heir 6th generation of the early settler George Strode from Millbrook, Hampshire, England. George Strode moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania, about 1682 with his family. Many generations of the famous Strode family left their mark around West Chester.  

Quick Facts

Full Name
Thomas Strode
Birth
February 11, 1810
Death
March 19, 1880
Net Worth
NA
Children
NA
Nationality
American
Place of Birth
Coatesville, Pennsylvania
Fields of Expertise
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
Contributions
Adding Machine

Strode’s family has historical roots in Strode’s Mill (also called Etters Mill). The property was built-in 1721 by Carter, Scott, and Willis and was legally under Strode family name from 1737 until 1878. The Etters Mill building is about 30 by 58 feet and still stands today.

The Strode’s Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was officially made part of Strode’s Mill Historic District, a national historic district located in East Bradford Township. Besides the Etters mill, Strode’s Mill Historic District includes Strode Farm, Strode’s Pork Products plant, and other buildings.

Strode’s Mill in East Bradford Township, built in 1721, a property of Strode family from 1737 until 1878
Strode’s Mill in East Bradford Township, built in 1721, a property of Strode family from 1737 until 1878

Early Life

Thomas Strode worked as a storekeeper and farmer around Coatesville (in some of the patents, he was specified as living in Nortonville, a hamlet near Coatesville). Thomas T. Strode, took out three patents for calculating devices—US30264 from 1860 for an adding machine of Calculating Clock and Pascaline type, and two patents for circular stylus-operated adding machines (US49168 from 1865 and US74170 from 1868).

Apart from three major patents for calculating devices, Thomas was involved in; he was a very inventive man because he was able to take out five other US patents—two patents for a calendar-clocks (US30166 and US49169), machine for boring holes (US8569), excavator (US152882), Grain winnower and Weigher (US8763).

Career 

Almost nothing is known about William Robjohn’s career. Some sources suggest that he worked as a storekeeper and farmer around Coatesville when he was a teenager.

What did Thomas Strode Invent

The Adding Machine 

Thomas strode requested a patent for calculating devices and was issued a warrant from 1860 (US patent No30264) for an adding machine. The machine was similar to the Rotating Clock invented by Wilhelm Schickard (check complete history ) and the Pascaline machine built by Blaise Pascal (see complete biography of Pascal).

The adding machine was a mechanical calculator invented by Thomas Strode to help in accounting. It is believed his early life as a Storekeeper could be the reason for his invention. Thoma’s adding machine was to help users find the total amount of their calculations effortlessly. 

The adding machine of Thomas Strode, patent drawing
The adding machine of Thomas Strode, patent drawing

Thomas’s calculator could read in dollars and cents. Before doing any operations with the machine, users were required to “ZERO” the calculator. Thomas’s adding machine lacked the zeroing mechanism; therefore, users manually did it. It had four wheels, each with ten teeth and a carrying tooth except the last wheel on the left side. 

The numbers were entered into the device by inserting a pin into the circular plate of the corresponding wheel and rotating until the pin struck the connecting strip. The pressed number keys would remain depressed and pop back to their common position once totaling is done. 

The Circular Stylus-Operated Adding Device

Thomas strode last patent (US74170 from 1868) was for the circular stylus-operated adding device, and the patent model still exists today. Because it’s a valuable historical invention, it is kept safe in the collection of the National Museum of American History, Washington. 

It is a wood, paper, and metal device, with overall measurements: 1.8 cm x 16.7 cm x 26 cm. The outer edge of the paddle is divided clockwise into marked ink 100 parts. Five concentric metal discs (held together at the middle by a screw) are atop the paddle, each one slightly smaller than the one below.

The adding device of Thomas Strode (© National Museum of American History, Washington)

The first disc above the paddle has 100 holes around the edge and rotates. The second disc is fixed, with numbers from 1 to 97 marked in pen counterclockwise around the edge (a few higher digits are hidden). The third disc is toothed and has numbers from 1 to 100 around its edge, inside the teeth. The fourth disc covers the third one, with one notch that reveals a number on the toothed disc. The fourth disc also has 100 holes around its edge. Just inside these holes is the fifth, top disc. It also is divided into 100 parts around the edge, marked in pen from 1 to 50 going counterclockwise on the right side, and from 1 to 47 going clockwise around the left side (a few divisions are unmarked).

The first disc represents sums of numbers up to 100 (cents) and carries a term to advance the third disc, which represents hundreds (dollars). The smallest disc can be used as a guide in adding or subtracting hundreds.

Thomas Strode: Marriage, Divorce, Children, and Personal Life

Net Worth

Nothing is known about Thomas Strode’s career net worth.

Marriage

No information is available about Thomas Strode’s marriage.

Divorce

No information is available about Thomas Strode’s divorce.

Children

No information is available about Thomas Strode’s children.

Tragedy

Thomas T. Strode died on 19 March, 1880, in Newlin Township, PA.

Thomas Strode – Complete Biography, History, and Inventions FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who is Thomas Strode?

Thomas strode is a holder of three patents for adding machines. He is widely known because of his famous circular stylus-operated mechanical calculator, which survived to our time.

What did Thomas Strode invent?

Thomas strode invented the adding machine and the circular stylus-operated mechanical calculator. He is also known for holding patents for other inventions such as calendar-clock, the machine for boring holes, excavator, Grain winnower, and a weigher.

When was Thomas Strode born?

He was born on 11 February 1810 in Coatesville.

How did Thomas Strode’s adding machine work?

Thomas strode adding machine worked by providing the total calculation through subtraction and addition of the keyed numbers. The Calculator repetitions also did multiplication and division. The user was supposed to set the machine at zero before pressing in the numbers for calculation.

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