The Burroughs Corporation began in 1886 as the American Arithmometer Company in St. Louis selling an adding machine invented by William Seward Burroughs.

The company moved to Detroit in 1904 and changed its name to the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, in honor of Burroughs, who died in 1898. Burroughs grew into the biggest adding machine company in America, although by the 1950s it was selling more than the basic adding machines, including typewriters and computers.

In 1953 the Burroughs Adding Machine Company was renamed the Burroughs Corporation and began moving into computer products, initially for banking institutions.

The Burroughs Corporation developed at least two highly innovative architectures:

  • The "Burroughs large systems" machines starting with the B5000 in 1961 were stack machines designed to be programmed in an extended Algol 60. Their operating systems, called MCP (Master Control Program - unrelated from the same in Tron), were programmed in extended Algol almost a decade before Unix, and the command interface developed into a compiled structured language with procedures called WFL (Work Flow Language).
  • Burroughs produced a series of minicomputers starting with the B1700 that were designed to be microprogrammed, with each process potentially getting its own virtual machine designed to be the best match to the programming language chosen for the application being run.

Burroughs Corporation was always a distant second to IBM. In September 1986, Burroughs Corporation merged with Sperry Corporation to form Unisys Corporation.