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.
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