“I’m the Oldest Criminal in History”: Why the Cash Register Was Invented

Cash Register 1879

Cash Register 1879

Today in 1883, James Ritty, a saloonkeeper in Dayton, Ohio, and John Birch received a patent (No. 271,363) for the first cash register, nicknamed the “Incorruptible Cashier.” There was a bell to ring up sales, referred to in advertising as “The Bell Heard Round the World.”

John Patterson, founding president of the National Cash Register Company, used the following message from 1885 through 1915 to demonstrate the limitations associated with the cash drawer which the cash register replaced:

“I am the oldest criminal in history.

I have acted in my present capacity for many thousands of years.

I have been trusted with million of dollars.

I have lost a great deal of this money.

I have constantly held temptation before those who have come in contact with me.

I have placed a burden upon the strong, and broken down the weak.

19th Century Cash Drawer

19th Century Cash Drawer

I have caused the downfall of many honest and ambitious young people.

I have ruined many business men who deserved success.

I have betrayed the bust of those who have depended upon me.

I am a thing of the past, a dead issue.

I am a failure.

I am the Open Cash Drawer.”

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