.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

American Can Company

Many of our readers are aware that one of our favorite makes around here is the Harris Visible / Rex Visible. We've unearthed more information about them than any other make, it seems, and had more input from fellow collectors world-wide on this than probably any other product line. Those who followed the old Davis Typewriter Works site will recall that one of the first two machines we worked on "live" was a Rex Visible, which was a variant labeled "Sold and Guaranteed by American Can Co." on its front frame. Click here to see that original project. And, you can click here to see the whole Harris / Rex story.

When American Can took over the sales of the Rex Visible, it had already been marketing, for some time, a simple lever-operated adding machine known as the American. I have an odd derivation of this machine, seen at left; this is an American Combination Register. I've never seen another one. Clearly, it's an American adding machine with what's clearly labeled as the American Cash Drawer, and it is what is known as a combination register or "Adding Machine On Drawer" style (AMOD) simple register. Many companies made such things - R.C. Allen, NCR, Allen-Wales, and even Smith-Corona. But this one is not only seemingly very lonely in the world - it's also undocumented.

Here is a fairly recent find - a manual for the exact style of machine! Interestingly, the manual whose cover is shown here doesn't use the exact same terminology; it's called the "American Adding Machine and Cash Drawer Combination." Each unit is labeled separately - "American Adding Machine" and "American Cash Drawer." My example clearly states "American Combination Register" on the front of the adding machine portion.

But look at the bottom of this manual - "American Can Company, Typewriter and Adding Machine Division, 104 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois." This is the first piece of any ephemera in our collection, and the only one we've actually seen, that states the name of this operation exactly.

Here is the center illustration in the manual. Those who saw the original article we did on this machine know that I had no idea really what the odd little, seemingly added-on device on top was; it's the Sales Classifying Attachment, used to mark on the tape which clerk performed the transaction and to identify department for product.

The manual does one thing for us - it tells us all the features of this machine, and we can work it now. It doesn't give a publishing date, though, although a sample statement in the back to show how the register prints out is dated March 31, 1920. If true, or roughly close to the actual date of printing for this manual, then it was printed very close to the failure of the Rex Typewriter concern as noted on my site.

In any event, the American Combination Register is now NOT the only indication of its own existence, which is quite gratifying to us.


  1. Wow,
    I have this exact same machine, It was from my grandfathers radio repair shop in the late 50s early 60s, and I've kept it since I was a kid, It still has different colored rocks and pieces of paper that we made into different denominations to play store with when I was a kid. I've searched all over online and this is the first time I've seen another one so I'm having a hard time figuring out what it's worth.

  2. Worth? Impossible to say, really. I'd guess that yours is invaluable!

  3. Hi Will,I have an American Can Co.adding machine with cash drawer like above. My adding machine is black,and the cash drawer looks exactly like the one above, but has no writing on it.It has the same lock,and the same mechanism/bell to open the drawer.It is a Model Four CD No.41568. The patent is August 27th, 1912. Can you give me any more information? Value?

  4. HELP! We have the top part of your register. It is in wonderful condition and worked when we purchased it over 20 years ago. The thing is currently full of dust etc. and doesn't work. Is there any way we can get a copy of your manual so we could fix our machine?

  5. Hey Will, it's been yrs since I commented on this but thank you for the reply to my comment anyway. I just eanted to make an update to the prior comment; as such a rarity I still have my register, something about it being lonely in the world makes me hang on to it. Thank You