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.
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 1870 in Rising Sun, Indiana.
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.
Reuben Rodney James took out a US Patent №209690 for an adding machine on November 5, 1878. It is now the property of the Smithsonian National Museum.
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.