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Did You Know?
February 2009

Did You Know?
by Ken Carr
February 2009


Last quarter, “Did You Know” dealt with NCR before Mr. Patterson bought the business and ended with his purchase of the business for $6500 in 1884. Here is the rest of the early story.

First let me say that since the publishing of the last newsletter, I have come across another account of Mr. Patterson’s purchase of NCR and found another name listed as the seller.  Further research indicates that Mr. Jacob Eckert had sold controlling interest to a Dayton businessman by the name of George Phillips.  Mr. Patterson made the purchase from Mr. Phillips.

 Mr. Patterson was pleased with his purchase and was confident that it was the beginning of something big.  That confidence was short lived. When he announced the news of his new purchase, it was met with disbelief and jeers from his Dayton business associates. Mr. Patterson was shaken by that reception.  He quickly returned to Mr. Phillips and requested that the sale be cancelled, which was met with a definite “no”. He even offered Mr. Phillips $2000 to cancel the sale and take back the stock.  Still it was a “no”.  Mr. Phillips reportedly said, “Take it back, I wouldn’t take it back if you gave to me.”  Mr. Patterson’s reply was prophetic.  “Very well, I’m going into the cash register business and will make a success of it.”  I wonder if the reaction by his Dayton business associates and the sarcastic attitude of Mr. Phillips didn’t just play a part in his passion to succeed with his new adventure.

One of Mr. Patterson’s first moves was to change the name of the company from The National Manufacturing Company to the National Cash Register Company and then he set out immediately to improve the early Ritty machines. The Ritty paper roll register, which involved the bothersome counting of  holes and then the adding together those totals, was abandoned in favor of the “detail adder” which used counter wheels to indicate sales. This unit, in 1900, led to the cash register that would mechanically add all sub totals into a grand total. Other improvements followed in rapid succession.

From the beginning he realized that if his new company was going to be successful, he would have to make “cash register” a byword in the vocabulary every merchant in America. He tackled the problem of publicizing his unknown product and convincing merchants that their centuries-old method of handling of money was not adequate. In his efforts to educate retailers, he blazed a trail of sales techniques that are in use yet today. He was the first to have a school for his salesmen, to establish sales quotas, to hold regular sales meetings and conventions, to teach salesmanship through visual media such as pictures, slides and movies, and to use direct mail advertising.

Profits were immediately put back into the business to improve the product, to finance a growing work force, to add production lines at the new manufacturing facility, to expand the educational programs, and to advertise the advantages of the cash register to the business world.

Early NCR salesmen would take with them a full size cash register when calling on a potential customer. They were often met by unhappy clerks with verbal treats and many times actual violence. The clerks resented the new machines calling them “thief catchers”. (Sound familiar? Remember the negative reaction of grocery checkout clerks to the early laser scanners). To foil the hostile actions of the clerks, Mr. Patterson had a midget three key demo model made and sent to his salesmen. When calling on a potential customer, the salesmen could easily enter a business carrying the demo cash register hidden away in a small case.  They then could show it to the merchant in a back room, close the sale and leave without the clerks ever knowing about it.  

With the introduction of the cash register in England in 1885, NCR laid the foundation for becoming the global business it is today.