Joe Lee Jameson and the adding machine

Fellow descendants! Did you know our ancestor Joe Lee endorsed an adding machine in advertisements that appeared all over the country?

It’s true. Joe Lee loved the Locke Adder so much that he was moved to write an unsolicited letter to the manufacturers in Kensett, Iowa. Or maybe he didn’t love the Locke Adder but he wanted to help out an old friend, or else one of his government buddies helped him land an endorsement deal (I know, as if State Revenue Agent of Texas job was like being Brett Favre). We’ll probably never know what the circumstances were. We know only what he wrote:

When one cannot afford to pay several hundred dollars for an adding machine, the Locke Adder is a most satisfactory substitute.

It is a valuable aid to the busy accountant, and as this useful machine can be had for only $5.00, one should be in every business office.

Very respectfully, JOE LEE JAMESON (State Revenue Agent).

All that and a free descriptive booklet. He couldn’t have known that these would turn out to be his most immortal words. When I searched on Joe Lee’s name in Google Books, I wondered at first why so many of the results were in magazines like Pearson’s and Lippincott’s and Cosmopolitan—it was because they ran the ads that used his name.

According to the online articles I’ve read about the Locke Adder, it was a sort of miniature abscus, and though it was a very stylish-looking device, it wasn’t terribly user-friendly. I am definitely impressed with Joe Lee’s apparent ability to decipher the mind-boggling free descriptive booklet.

By all accounts the Locke Adder owed much of its success to its extensive marketing. I hope Joe Lee got his five dollars’ worth. Certainly it bought him, in the back pages of all these old magazines, a strange kind of afterlife…

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