1900 cash register on display at BI Museum

Monday, June 25, 2012
1900 Cash Register on display at Buffalo Island Museum in Monette.

In the office area of the Buffalo Island Museum is a relic of the past; a National Cash Register made in 1900. Sometimes we take for granted the things we see and use that makes our life so convenient. Remember when you stood in line at the grocery store for thirty minutes or more while the clerk looked at the prices and entered each amount in the cash register? Today, stores use scanners which quickly scan a barcode.

James Ritty, a Dayton, Ohio, saloonkeeper, suspected that his bartenders were crooked, so he attached a device to record how much money went into the till. Most shopkeepers had a box or drawer to hold the receipts and money. Dishonest workers could easily remove money when the owner wasn't looking. He patented his machine in 1879.

One of his customers, John Henry Patterson, bought one of Ritty's machines because he was also having problems in his business. He liked it so much that he bought the controlling interest and started his own business.

In 1884, he and his brother, Frank formed the National Cash Register Company. He built ornately patterned cash registers with bronze and brass covers and fine wooden cabinets. Some, like the one at the museum, had a marble shelf. When a silver coin was tossed on the marble, there was a bell-like ring. If it was a counterfeit coin, there was a dull sound. In those days, most of the money was in silver coins.

These cash registers came with a two year guarantee, which was unusual in those days. The machines were well made and many have survived for over a hundred years. The earlier ones are highly collectible today.

The cash register at the museum was donated by Johnny Jones and has a brass front with five rows of round keys. It still has paper in the receipt roll, which made a record of each sale and turned out a receipt for the customer. It is hand-cranked. The cabinet is wood and has drawers where each clerk would store his receipts for the day.

The Buffalo Island Museum is open on Friday and Saturday 12:30 to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

Check out the museum's Facebook page for more information and to enter our monthly BIM Mystery Artifact Contest.

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