W. S. Burroughs
Home W. S. Burroughs Companies Collections Advertisments Miscellaneous Favorites Products/Research Wanted

A limited number of copies of the AMERICAN DIGEST OF BUSINESS MACHINES (1924) is available.  Use the link on the home page to find out how to get your copy.

Who's Who?

W. S. Burroughs

It is amazing how little is recorded about William Seward Burroughs. In this section of the website I will try to provide all that I can about him, the beginnings of his invention, and other key inventors in the industry.

Joseph Boyer, President of the American Arithmometer Company, was quoted as saying:

"There was Burroughs with his great idea, greater than any of us could fully appreciate, and with his meager capital of $300. Long before the first model was actually begun his money was gone. But as his resources dwindled, his courage grew.  I used to leave him at his bench in the evening and find him still there in the morning.

When the first machine proved a failure, Burroughs made another model.  Finally, the third model seemed to meet his standards. He could make it perform mathematical wonders, so a lot of 50 machines was made. However, when untrained operators ran the machines, they got the most amazing results. People began to question Burroughs' judgment and doubt his ability.

Everyone but Burroughs was ready to quit. Yet the inventor himself was undaunted, demonstrating his contempt for imperfection by tossing the 50 machines, one by one, out of a second-story window. Then he began work on a new model.  Night after night he worked feverishly, 24 hours a day, 34 hours at a stretch.  Then, at last, the wonderful governor that has made the machine foolproof was invented. Burroughs was jubilant.  His machine was perfect.  His faith had been justified."

One of the best descriptions I have read about the life and business activities of William S. Burroughs was written by Peggy Aldrich Kidwell for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.  The article, titled "The Adding Machine Fraternity at St. Louis: Creating a Center of Invention, 1880-1920", is available via the link below. While there is a wealth of information within the document, the section titled "William Burroughs and American Arithmometer Company from page 8-12 specifically addresses the life and business ventures of William S. Burroughs