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Manuscript/Mixed Material Plate, punch card, and instructions for Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine, ca. 1895.

About this Item

Title

  • Plate, punch card, and instructions for Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine, ca. 1895.

Created / Published

  • ca. 1895

Headings

  • -  Inventors
  • -  Inventions
  • -  Census
  • -  Data processing
  • -  Hollerith, Herman (1860-1929)
  • -  International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)
  • -  Punched cards
  • -  Tabulating machines
  • -  Manuscripts

Genre

  • Manuscripts

Notes

  • -  Reproduction number: A55 (color slide; pages 4 and 5 of instructions); A56 (color slide; plate and punch card)
  • -  Modern data processing began with the inventions of American engineer Herman Hollerith (1860-1929), who sought to develop a mechanized method for counting the nation's census data. Tabulating the 1880 census had taken the United States Census Bureau eight years to complete, and federal officials feared that the 1890 census would take even longer. In 1881 Hollerith began designing a machine to compile census data more efficiently than traditional hand methods, and by the late 1880s, he had built a punched card tabulating machine that could be read by electrical sensing. His system made it possible for one Census Bureau employee to compute each day the data on thousands of people, keypunching information that had been captured by tens of thousands of census takers.
  • -  The template shown here was part of a Pantograph Punch which sped the transfer of data from the census taker's sheet to a punched card. When a stylus was inserted into a hole on the template, a corresponding hole was punched in the card at the other end. Each card represented one person and each hole a different statistic, such as age or marital status. The cards were sorted and later read electronically by a press containing pins that penetrated the card only at its holes. Each pin that passed through a hole made electrical contact with a small cup of mercury, closing a circuit and advancing a dial counter by one. Hollerith's machines completed the 1890 census in one year, garnering considerable publicity and leading to the establishment of his own company, the Tabulating Machine Company, which later became International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). For decades, Hollerith's punched card system was used in a variety of industries, most notably by IBM to program its early computers.

Source Collection

  • Herman Hollerith Papers

Repository

  • Manuscript Division

Online Format

  • pdf
  • image

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Rights & Access

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Plate, punch card, and instructions for Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine. 1895. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.023/.

APA citation style:

(1895) Plate, punch card, and instructions for Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.023/.

MLA citation style:

Plate, punch card, and instructions for Herman Hollerith's Electric Sorting and Tabulating Machine. 1895. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mcc.023/>.