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Burroughs Corporation records

Identifier: CBI 90

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains the records of the Burroughs Corporation, and its predecessors the American Arithmometer Company and Burroughs Adding Machine Company. Materials include corporate records, photographs, films and video tapes, scrap books, papers of employees and records of companies acquired by Burroughs during the companies tenure in the adding machine and computer industry, such as the System Development Corporation, Charles R. Hadley Company, Control Instrument Company, ElectroData and Todd Company.


  • Creation: 1880-1998


Language of Materials


Access to materials:

Access to the collection is unrestricted.


The Charles Babbage Institute holds the copyright to all materials in the collection, except for items covered by a prior copyright (such as published materials). Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Historical Note of Burroughs Corporation

The Burroughs Corporation began in 1886 as the American Arithmometer Company. It was formed with the intent of selling the adding machine invented by William Seward Burroughs. The company started in St. Louis, Missouri where Burroughs was living at the time. The company moved its entire operations to Detroit, Michigan in 1904.

By 1905 the company had settled in Detroit and the name was changed to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, in honor of William S. Burroughs who had died in 1898. Operations resumed almost immediately, and for about the next fifty years, Burroughs grew into the biggest adding machine company in the United States. It introduced many different products, including many variations of the basic adding machine, typewriters, check protectors, ticketeers, and finally, computers.

In 1953 the Burroughs Adding Machine Company was renamed the Burroughs Corporation, a name more reflective of their broad scope of products. They still had a strong market in adding and calculating machines, especially at banks and similar institutions. However, they were also moving into the computer field about this time. Their experience with the military during WWII also steered them toward the computer field, and they worked with the government on numerous contracts after the end of the war.

As Burroughs Corporation concentrated more and more on computers, they still marketed toward their prime customers, banking institutions. However, as time passed, their mainframes and other computers were given a greater market. IBM, of course, was far ahead of Burroughs in terms of sales and revenues, but Burroughs was often the next competitor behind them.

In September 1986, Burroughs Corporation and Sperry Corporation completed a merger that had been started over a year before. W. Michael Blumenthal, president of Burroughs Corporation, and Joseph J. Kroger, president of Sperry Corporation, became Chairman/CEO and Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the new company -- Unisys Corporation. The merger, which was actually an acquisition of Sperry by Burroughs for $4.8 billion, put Unisys into second place in the computer market in 1986, with revenues of about $10.5 billion. This was the largest merger in the computer industry's history, and although impressive, Unisys was still only about 1/5 the size of IBM. A period of reorganization followed the merger, with the closing of some facilities, combining of similar departments in Burroughs and Sperry, and the divestment of non-computer-related businesses.

Biographical Note of William Seward Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs, inventor of an adding machine and a founder of the American Arithmometer Company (which was renamed in his honor in 1905), was born in rural New York, although the date of Burroughs' birth has been hard to establish, it was between 1855 and 1858. He became a bank clerk at the Cayuga County National Bank in Auburn, New York in the 1870s, but eventually moved to St. Louis for health reasons.

It was here, in the early 1880s, in a small area of the Boyer Machine Company shop, that he started working on the bank clerk's dream -- the adding machine. After several years, he applied for a patent, eventually granted in 1888. The earliest machines were great prototypes, but when in the hands of inexperienced users would give outrageous answers. Burroughs answered the challenge by designing (in a few days), the "dash pot," a mechanism that regulated the pull on the adding machine's handle.

The next challenge was to convince banks and businesses that they needed this new machine, surprisingly not an easy thing to do. With a few salesmen who doubled as the service department, the American Arithmometer Company set out to add a new machine into the "modern-day" offices at the end of the nineteenth century. William Seward Burroughs only glimpsed the beginning of the office automation phenomenon, for he died, in Citronelle, Alabama, in 1898.


450 Cubic Feet (681 boxes (record cartons, hollinger boxes, flat file materials))


The collection contains the records of the Burroughs Corporation, and its predecessors the American Arithmometer Company and Burroughs Adding Machine Company. Materials include corporate records, photographs, films and video tapes, scrapbooks, papers of employees and records of companies acquired by Burroughs.

Arrangement of Collection

The Burroughs Corporation Records are arranged into 111 series. Please see the finding aid for each series for a box and folder list.

  1. Advertising Samples, 1904-1986
  2. John C. Alrich Papers, 1956-1958
  3. American Arithmometer Company Records, 1886-1905
  4. Analysis of Competitor Products (Competitive Information) and Competitors’ Product Literature, 1907-1971
  5. Annual Meeting Records, 1967-1983
  6. Annual Report Photographs, 1961-1985
  7. Annual Reports, 1923-1985
  8. Artifacts, 1954-1966
  9. Lawrence Bewley Papers, 1953-1960
  10. Biography Files, 1893-1985
  11. Black Box Photograph Collection, 1880-1972
  12. Book Publications, 1920-1988
  13. Branch Office Photographs, 1911-1966
  14. Burroughs and Sperry Merger Records, 1985-1989
  15. Burroughs BulletinPhotographs, 1947-1952
  16. Burroughs Machines, Ltd. Records, 1909-1926, 1966-1974
  17. Robert G. Busse Scrapbook, 1941-1967
  18. Thomas Butler Papers, 1935-1937, 1953
  19. Charles R. Hadley Company Records, 1905-1956
  20. Control Instrument Corporation Records, 1948-1968
  21. Corporate and Recruiting Brochures, circa 1930-1980
  22. Corporate Events, 1967-1980
  23. Corporate Identity Studies, 1957-1985
  24. Corporate Market Development Group, 1983-1984
  25. Court Documentation, 1934-1935
  26. CUBE Correspondence, 1969-1988
  27. Frank Cullen Papers, 1955-1976
  28. Cumbernauld Plant Technical Literature, 1976-1982
  29. Decisions in Force, 1911-1958
  30. Defense/Government Photographs, circa 1950s-1960s
  31. Defense, Space, and Special Systems Group, 1965-1971
  32. Detroit Area Divisions Records, 1962-1977
  33. Edsger W. Dijkstra Papers, 1971-1979
  34. Distributive Organization Records, 1886-1949
  35. Early Office Machine Photographs, 1907-1939
  36. Early Office Machine Product and Technical Literature, 1900-1966
  37. ElectroData Division Photograph Collection, 1962-1980
  38. ElectroData Division Records, 1952-1979
  39. Electronic Control Division and Electronic Instrument Division Records, 1958-1966
  40. Executive Orders, 1921-1943
  41. Exhibits Photographs and Records, 1947-1983
  42. Facility Literature, 1966-1974
  43. Facility Photographs, circa 1900-1983
  44. Field Force Letters, 1918-1923
  45. Financial Collection, 1905-1955
  46. Fragile Publications Collection, 1905-1955
  47. General Subject File, circa 1904-circa 1990
  48. Glass Lantern Slide Collection, circa 1945-1960
  49. Simon E. Gluck Papers, 1954-1962
  50. Gregory Publishing Company Burroughs Manuals, 1976-1983
  51. Histories of Burroughs, 1886-1986
  52. HOBO Group Reports, 1951-1952
  53. Installation Stories, 1951-1957
  54. International Operations Records, 1954-1979
  55. Norman L. Kreuder Papers, 1956-1962
  56. Langhorne Family Correspondence, 1886-1900
  57. Legion of Honor Records, 1961-1972, 1985
  58. Duncan L. MacDonald Papers, 1955-1964
  59. Mechanical Library, 1920-1968
  60. Miscellaneous Legal Records, 1934-1970
  61. Narration Scripts and Slide Presentations, 1948-1975
  62. Glen F. Nielsen Papers, 1955-1956
  63. Oversized and Mounted Photographs, circa 1897-circa 1977
  64. Paoli Area Divisions Records, 1949-1977
  65. Pasinski Family Papers, 1912-1984
  66. Passport Negatives, 1950-1965
  67. Patent and Trademark Records, 1897-1980
  68. Patent Research and Development Requests, 1946-1968
  69. Patent Research Division Files, 1947-1962
  70. PDA and PMA Authorizations, 1967-1971
  71. Photograph Collection, 1949-1963
  72. Pike Adding Machine Company Records, 1903-1911
  73. Policies and Procedures Correspondence, 1919-1957
  74. Press Clippings, 1925-1986
  75. Press Releases, 1947-1987
  76. Price and Style Lists, 1906-1972
  77. Product Literature, 1910-1984
  78. Product Photographs, circa 1940-1985
  79. Product and Testing Reports, 1951-1982
  80. Product Planning Records, 1950-1973
  81. Redactron Corporation Records, 1969-1977
  82. Reference Photographs, 1891-1985
  83. L. P. Robinson Papers, 1952-1961
  84. L. P. Robinson and L. W. Cali Papers, 1956-1960
  85. Sibyl M. Rock Papers, 1956-1965
  86. Sales Conventions Records, 1905-1929
  87. Sales Records, 1914-1922
  88. Salesmen's Manuals and Literature, 1906-1975
  89. Salesmen's Papers, 1910-1985
  90. Scientific Research Society of America - Burroughs Branch Records, 1952-1962.
  91. SEC Forms and Stock Information, 1942-1986
  92. Serial Publications, 1907-1998
  93. Shareholder Meetings and Reports, 1922-1986
  94. Martin Shuler Papers, 1952-1954
  95. Slide Collection, circa 1955-1978
  96. Speeches, 1921-1985
  97. Standard Practices Manuals, 1921, 1951
  98. Charles P. Staubach Papers, 1906-1928
  99. Don L. Stevens Papers, 1957-1962
  100. Strike Crime Reports, 1975
  101. Subsidiary Product Literature, 1949-1983
  102. System Development Corporation Records, 1946-1982
  103. Tax Appeal, 1930
  104. Lyle Thompson Papers, 1948-1979
  105. Todd Company Records, 1953-1956
  106. Irven Travis Papers, 1948-1968
  107. United Foundations Campaign Records, 1959-1969
  108. Universal Adding Machine Company Records, 1900-1912
  109. Videotapes and Films, 1957-1989
  110. J. Jay Wolf Papers, 1954-1978
  111. World War II Era Records, 1931-1946


The records were given to the Charles Babbage Institute by Unisys Corporation in 1991.

Related Materials

The Burroughs Corporation Records includes over 100,000 photographs depicting the entire visual history of Burroughs from its origin as the American Arithmometer Corporation in 1886 to its merger with the Sperry Corporation to form the Unisys Corporation in 1986. 550 of these photographs have been scanned and stored in the Burroughs Image Database. The database can be searched by subject keywords, names, places, dates or historical period. This project is part of the University of Minnesota's IMAGES union database.

The corporate records of the Sperry Corporation were donated by the Unisys Corporation to the Hagley Museum and Library, in Wilmington, Delaware.

Burroughs Corporation Records, 1880-1998. Finding Aid.
Prepared by Archival Staff of the Charles Babbage Institute, 1995-2006.
July 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Charles Babbage Institute Archives Collecting Area

Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 - 21st Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55455