Saturday, November 22, 2014

Shelby Davidson-Patented a Paper-rewind mechanism for Adding machines.

Shelby Davidson  was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson. Having been born after Emancipation, the younger Shelby was able to take advantage of the educational opportunities in the public school system. He later traveled to Louisville and enrolled in a state university program. Dissatisfied with the scope and quality of the program, he enrolled in Howard University in 1887.  Shelby had to take additional courses for 2 years in a preparatory program in order to get him up to speed with his colleagues. In 1983, Davidson’s college career was in jeopardy when charges were brought against him alleging that he had violated University rules regarding his involvement with a married woman. He was promptly expelled along with four other students.  After almost six years in the University, he was unwilling to accept the decision and decided to fight back. He drafted an appeal which he forwarded to the Howard University trustees. Eventually, a negotiation took place and the matter was resolved and Davidson received a degree from the University in 1896. The tenacity and thoroughness with which he fought back was precursor to how he would pursue his career. Davidson would soon take a job with the United States Treasury Department.  After several promotions he was working in a department where the government was employing adding machines. His performance in these roles was enough to gain him additional promotions as well as an invitation from the Burroughs Adding Machine Company. Shelby’s familiarity with the machines was such that he decided to add an add-on device, one which managed the roll of paper that tabulated machine’s calculations The device was called a paper-rewind mechanism for adding machines.  The mechanism allowed the paper to be review or for it to be stored. It was attached to the adding machine by a support arm and also contained an alarm system to alert the user when the paper strip had broken or was empty. Davidson patented the device on April 14, 1908.                                   

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