The Franklin Institute Logo
Case Files logo

Herman Hollerith: Electric Tabulating Device, 1890

High Price

The 1900 U.S. census used leased Hollerith equipment and cards, at a noticeably high price since the company now dominated the field. The cost prompted the Census Bureau—made a permanent division of the Department of Commerce in 1903—to cancel the Hollerith arrangement and use the slower Pidgin equipment while developing alternative equipment in time for the 1910 count.

A Census Bureau engineer, James Powers, patented the resulting machine that won most of the 1910 census work. In 1911 he formed the Powers Tabulating Machine Company, an effective competitor to Hollerith's company.

At that time Hollerith's Tabulating Company was involved in various disputes over patent infringement, which led to lawsuits and final judgment by the Supreme Court. Hollerith's challenges were unsuccessful.