Where did the Cash Register come From?

By: Amy Nutt..


The cash register is a very important part of how commercial transactions have been done since 1879 when James Ritty invented the Ritty model after the Civil War. He owned a saloon in Dayton, Ohio and needed to find a way to keep his employees from stealing money from him. They were dipping out of the profits and he was not able to figure out who was doing it and exactly how much they were taking, but he knew it was happening.

Ritty was inspired by seeing a tool that counted propeller revolutions on a steamship, so with the help of John Birch in 1883, he was able to patent his Ritty Model. This was a great benefit to the commercial world because he was definitely not the only one encountering problems with employees pilfering profits within businesses. But Ritty became quite overwhelmed with running his cash register business and his saloon, so he sold all of the interest in his cash register business to a Cincinnati man by the name of Jacob H. Eckert. Eckert was a salesman who sold china and glassware and had created the National Manufacturing Company. Eckert then sold the National Manufacturing Company in 1884 to John H. Patterson. Patterson then renamed the company the National Cash Register Company.

Patterson went on to improve the functionality of the cash register by adding a roll of paper that transactions could be printed on. This is how the receipt was created and many transaction disputes come to an end. No longer were transaction issues a word game, but there was a piece of paper to prove it. However in 1906, the cash register was improved even more when a man named Charles F. Kettering, an employee for the National Cash Register Company, created a cash register that contained an electric motor.

All the way up until 1915, the cash register had found a home in virtually every retail store. The millionth register sold in 1911 and shopkeepers were able to keep track of their profits and their losses and keep their inventory in check. This made businesses even more competitive because they had actual numbers to go on. If there was a loss, then the shopkeeper would find a way to improve upon that loss.

The National Cash Register Company found so much success because in the 1880s and 1890s, Patterson found a way to sue all of the companies trying to compete with them in cash register sales. Some of these businesses were purchased by the National Cash Register Company and others were just put out of business all together. This was before antitrust laws existed, but in 1912 Patterson was charged with criminal conspiracy under the new Sherman Antitrust Law. The National Cash Register Company accounted for 95% of all cash register sales at that time. However, the National Cash Register Company remained the top seller of cash registers with 5900 employees on the payroll. It was in 1924 that they sold their two millionth machine.

Cash registers today

Since then, cash registers have touch screens and use the latest technology to compute transactions involving cash, checks, and credit cards. Some even have room to store counterfeit detectors on the shelf. We see different variations of them in our grocery stores, department stores, and mom and pop stores. However, there is an initial on most of these cash registers that just might look familiar and that is the letters NCR, which stands for the National Cash Register Company. They certainly saw their ups and downs from being at the top of their game in 1957 in the computer market to their buyout by AT&T in 1991, but they gained their independence and once again began developing many of the state-of-the-art cash registers we see today.

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