Bates Numbering Machine


Bates Automatic Numbering MachineThe Bates Numbering Machine, Bates Stamper, Automatic Stamper or Bates Automatic Number Machine is commonly used in the legal industry for indexing large volumes of complex litigation documents which must be retrieved easily for reference and inquiry.

Bates Numbering Machine – History

The term Bates numbering machine comes from the various patents submitted by Edwin G. Bates pertaining to the orignal   Bates Consecutive Number Machine.  Edwin’s patents range from about 1892-1907.   The actual number that is stamped onto a page is often referred to as a Bates Stamp.

One of the first patents approved was for the Consecutive Number Machine in 1892.   The number machine had the ability to auto-increment (rotate to the next number), which advanced to the next number every time the handle was depressed.  This was a major improvement since no intervention was required to adjust the numbers.

There were a few drawbacks to this machine, so Bates submitted a patent in 1896 for the Automatic Number Machine.   The patent was approved in 1901.   This new numbering machine had the ability to select “Consecutive”, “Repeat” and “Duplicate” making it much more useful for documentation purposes.  This new model is pictured above and below.

Newer versions of the Bates Numbering Machines include the ability to use letters, numbers, a prefix and a suffix, depending on the application.  For example, page 1 of a document about a woman named Jane Doe might be marked JD1.  On the next page it might say JD2 and so on.

Bates Numbering MachineBates Numbering Machine – Who Uses It

Bates Numbering Machines were used by the railroad, lawyers, accountants and a host of other industries where the identification of documentation was required.  Each time the Bates Numbering Machine was used, a Bates number would be added to a page.  Depending on the document or documents, different number sequences were applied.

Lawyers especially would use the Bates Stamps to identify and distinguish pages of legal documents.

Many US law firms still use Bates Numbering Machines and Bates Stamps today.  As documentation become more electronic, there is less need to rely on the Bate Stamp and as such, Bates Numbering Machines will eventually be phased out.

Bates Numbering Machine – What To Look For

An easy way to identify an older Bates Numbering Machine from a later one, is the handle.  Bates Numbering Machine DialTypically, machines made prior to the 20’s had wooden handles.  Later versions would often incorporate the use of Bakelite (polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride), an early form of plastic. and still later ones would use more advance forms of plastics.

Interesting Fact: Bakelite was patented in 1907 by Dr. Dr. Baekeland.  He discovered the process for making it while trying to find a replacement for Shellac.  The Bakelite Corporation was formed in 1922.

Bates Numbering Machine with Rexel and other Numbering machine.We are still doing research on the Bates Numbering Machine and will continue to add to this article.  We should be getting at least one model of the Bates Automatic Numbering Machine to showcase soon.

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I share a passion for collecting all things vintage and antique and love to share that passion with others.


  1. Is this worth anything? Bates Lever Movement , the bates manufacturing co Hackettstown, nj usa Bates numbering machine, serial no B283592 wheels 8 style I R patented.

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