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Did You Know?
November 2007

Did You Know?
by Ken Carr
November 2007


            DID YOU KNOW...
            ...in the early years, when the cash register as a retail tool was still being identified, changes were being made at a very rapid pace.  With the need to protect these new inventions, patents were issued to NCR in record numbers.  With competition growing in the cash register industry, other companies infringing on those patents became a constant problem and the company was embroiled in numerous law suits.  In the fall of 1895, after five years in the courts, the Company won a suit against the Capital Cash Register Company of Troy, NY.  Mr. Patterson considered this to be right at the top of the most important legal victories for the company. The suit in question, the Campbell Patent (thought to be the name of the NCR inventor) was considered an NCR foundation patent.  It dealt with the automatic opening of the cash draw when one or more of the keys were depressed.  As Mr. Patterson saw it, the courts ruling and the way the judgment was rendered, made it almost impossible for anyone other than NCR to make a practical cash register without infringing on this patent.  It was thought that the winning of this suit, which also settled like suits against other companies, solidified NCR’s position as the dominate company in the cash register industry.  The NCR News of September 15, 1895 states that flags were raised around the NCR campus when this court judgment was publicly announced.
            It’s common knowledge that the Wright Brother’s home was owned by the National Cash Register Company (NCR) but do you know how NCR came to purchase the property nearly sixty years ago?  Actually, calling it the Wright Brother’s Home isn’t accurate.  Wilbur died in 1912, two years before completion. The new home really became the Wright Family Home when in 1916 Orville, his father Milton and his sister Katharine move into the house.  The family named the home Hawthorn Hill in honor of the many Hawthorn trees that graced their 17 acre homestead south of Dayton.  Orville occupied the home from 1916 until his death in 1948, when NCR stepped into the picture. 

            Orville’s will deeded the property to the Wright family. For whatever reason, the family decided not to retain Hawthorn Hill and one day a “For Sale” sign appeared on the lawn.  Mr. Stanley C Allyn, President of NCR, lived near the property and often walked to and from the NCR factory some two miles north.  In doing so he continued to notice the “For Sale” sign.  Mr. Allyn discussed the potential business use of the property with Mr. Edward A. Deeds, NCR Chairman of the Board and in November of 1948, NCR became the owner of Hawthorn Hill. The price was $75,000. 

            Why did they buy the property?  The press release at the time from Mr. Allyn and Mr. Deeds explains their action. “The company intends to maintain the home essentially as it is.  It will be a guest house primarily for oversea visitors. While we are thinking chiefly of those who might visit Dayton in connection with our own business (NCR), there will be times when the facility will be made available to public figures as guests of the community.”  That was the business reason but the release goes on to explain what may well have been in the hearts of these two men.  “The use which the company intends to make of the property will not only keep the building and grounds intact, but will maintain the dignity which always surrounds Hawthorn Hill.”  While the company’s action was prompted primarily by the fact that the property will serve a useful purpose within our organization, the preservation of the Wright home in the community to which the Wright brothers contributed so much was also an important factor in our decision.”  Actually, NCR used the Wright home in much the same way Orville had.  In 1912, the Wright brothers were receiving world acclaim and many prominent national and international figures came to Dayton to visit them.  It was the desire by the brothers to provide suitable surroundings and accommodations for such guests that led to the plans for Hawthorn Hill. During the 34 years that Orville lived there, the home accommodated many world figures as it did during the 58 years it was owned by NCR.

            In 2006, NCR returned Hawthorn Hill to the Wright family as a gift to the Wright Family Foundation. Dayton History, the organization responsible for maintaining the NCR Archive has taken over the management of the property. For the first time ever, through Dayton History, Hawthorn Hill is now open for tours by the general public.

            The value of the property has grown into millions but the historical value is priceless and all because two NCR men had the vision to spend $75,000 to preserve a part of public history which may well have been lost had the property been purchased by someone intending to use the home as a private residence. 


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