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Did You Know?
November 2009

Did You Know?
by Ken Carr
November 2009


            …Mr. Patterson believed in teaching through the eye, and the use of pictures was considered by him a primary tool to accomplish that. The old glass negatives of the Photography Department date back to 1887 when the Company was still located in the Callahan Power Building in downtown Dayton.  Early pictures were used in sales meeting, brochures, advertising, educational meeting.

            Before construction began for the new factory at the top of South Main Street hill, Mr. Patterson had a photograph taken of the undeveloped land.  In the forefront of the picture was a split rail fence.  A new photograph of the construction progress was taken for each new publication of the Hustler (NCR Newsletter). The split rail fence was always in the forefront as a point of reference. Everyone, especially those customers and NCR people outside of Dayton, could follow the progress. The program was so well received that as the factory rapidly grew, its progress was photographed in the same way. 

            As early as the third CPC Convention in 1888, Mr. Patterson was not only using pictures at the corporate level but was beginning to teach the use of pictures in sales. On the CPC program that year the following agenda item is listed: “Wednesday, 10A.M. the use of the photo in sales material for stores, bars and hotels.”

            In 1892, when Mr. Patterson began his work on improving the new factory’s surrounding neighborhood, he stepped up the use of photographs for his educational programs to the residents by placing the pictures in stereopticon slides. Soon slides were being use to supplement pictures across the Company.

            In 1905, the Photography Department attached a camera with a parachute to a balloon.  When the picture of the factory was taken the balloon was released and the parachute returned to the ground with the camera.  Aerial photograph had come to NCR.

            The NCR Photographic Department was started in 1895 in an unusual way.  A steamer trunk was left in the Advertising Department and had been there for some time.  They knew that it belonged to Mr. Patterson but no one knew what was in it. When advised about the trunk, Mr. Patterson ordered them to open it and get back to him.  Mr. Otto Nelson upon opening the trunk discovered a new camera with tripod and all the necessary accessories. When advised, Mr. Patterson told them he thought he had lost the camera on his travels before returning to Dayton.  He further advised Nelson to put the camera together, take some pictures around the factory and to bring them to him. Before Mr. Nelson could tell him that he knew nothing about photography Mr. Patterson was gone.  Nelson did as instructed and with much difficulty assembled the camera, learned how to use it and took the requested photographs.  He had them developed in downtown Dayton and presented them to Mr. Patterson.  Over the next few weeks, Mr. Patterson ordered numerous photographs.  Upon seeing the invoice from the downtown picture developer, Mr. Patterson ordered Nelson to begin developing his own pictures.  Nelson told him that he didn’t have a darkroom and knew nothing about developing pictures.  Mr. Patterson said, “I’ll find a place for a darkroom and you’ll learn the work.”  A small shed on factory property was converted into a darkroom and furnished with the latest in photo development equipment and supplies.  By default, Nelson had become the first Company Photographer and head of the new department.

            In 1897, Mr. Patterson saw a motion picture of a parade in New York City.  By 1901, he was using film in the same manner as he had the pictures and slides, for presentations, advertising and education.  As one might expect, Otto Nelson became responsible for NCR’s entry into the motion picture business.

            Mr. Patterson embraced anything that enhanced education through the eye.  One must wonder how he would have react to the advent of television, personal computers, the internet and cell phones.   One thing for sure, he would have been among the first to maximize the use of all of them in the business world.


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