February 07, 2006
Bates Numbers
Posted by Gordon Smith

Yesterday, Judge Lake gave the Enron jurors are brief description of "Bates numbers" after lawyers in the case referred to various documents. According to Enron: TrialWatch, Judge Lake explained:

"Years ago they gave you a stamp, like a checker uses to stamp a can of peas with. I guess the original stamp was named for a Mr. Bates.... Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about this.

Actually, I was curious to know more. I found this nifty image of Bates automatic numbering machine:


The machine was patented in 1891-93, and you can find some for sale on eBay. Here is the Bates machine in action:


The Bates Manufacturing Company was located in Orange, New Jersey, and here is a very brief history:

This company was incorporated in New York on September 13, 1890, to manufacture and sell automatic hand-held numbering machines. During the period 1892-1897 the Edison Phonograph Works absorbed its manufacturing operations and acquired nearly all of the company's stock. The Bates Manufacturing Company continued as the sales agent for numbering machines, line-dating machines, and other office products. The corporation was dissolved in January 1922.

Finally, here is a photo of the manufacturing facility:


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Comments (199)

1. Posted by Dave Hoffman on February 7, 2006 @ 5:36 | Permalink

My curiosity too was triggered...

That picture of Bates (?) doing his stuff is pretty amazing. If someone wanted to turn it into an oil painting, it could be a classic to be put on firm walls near and far. Note that back in the day, discovery apparently didn't involve dress down days.

2. Posted by Gordon Smith on February 7, 2006 @ 8:06 | Permalink


I saw a reference to "Norman Bates" as the founder, too. But it was a blog post without any citation to authority, so I wasn't sure whether that was true. Did you find evidence that I didn't?

By the way, that picture is not the founder of Bate Mfg. Co. (i.e., "Norman Bates"), just an office worker. Not on casual Friday.

3. Posted by Dave Hoffman on February 7, 2006 @ 10:14 | Permalink

You are right, it was too good to be true (I cited the same blog post as you mention). As far as I can tell on further review, Benjamin E. Bates, of Boston and the founder of Bates College, founded the Bates Manufacturing Co. Shucks!

4. Posted by Laura I Appleman on February 7, 2006 @ 21:13 | Permalink

Hey, using a Bates-stamper is not *that* archaic--I used one myself when I was a legal assistant before law school, from 1994-95. That's only 10 years ago!

5. Posted by Gordon Smith on February 7, 2006 @ 21:38 | Permalink

Wow, Laura! You're ancient! ;-)

6. Posted by Alice Cooper on April 4, 2006 @ 12:28 | Permalink

I have a Bates Telephone Index patented and manufactured by The Bates Mfg. Co.
Makers of Numbering Devices
Orange, N.J. U. S. A.
My father, an attorney, had this. He died in 1953. Most of the phone numbers on it are legal offices. There are several names and numbers under golf!
I found this web site while trying to see if the Bates Co still existed. It would have been great to get a replacement roll of paper for my telehone index. But I guess I have an antique. And, yes, Gordon, I am ancient. Alice

7. Posted by Joan Pingry on May 4, 2006 @ 15:18 | Permalink

We have an antique from this company as well, but my husband, born in 1933, bought it in either the late 60's or early 70's in Chicago, which would make me think that Bates sold their business and stock in 1922 and did not simply "go out of business." Ours is a phone list with the alphabet down the right side and a lever that selects the letter. Then you push a bar at the bottom and the device pops open. It's very well made and still works like a charm. I visited this site because my husband was also interested in refills. Joan

8. Posted by Elizabeth on May 14, 2006 @ 20:44 | Permalink

I am desperately trying to locate an "almost new" or new Bates automatic address book with the top that flips up. Is there a way to get one?

9. Posted by martin on June 30, 2006 @ 13:57 | Permalink

I am looking for a bates list finder model #2000

10. Posted by ray on July 8, 2006 @ 20:44 | Permalink

i acquired a bates taxmeter manufactured by bates accounting devices located in mt. vernon, ny. you turn a side dial and a roll of paper inside the unit provides withholding info at a glance. is this the same outfit you have been discussing? i cannot find any info on this piece. any help would be appreciated.

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