History of the Cash Register

On January 30, 1883, James Ritty, a saloonkeeper in Dayton, Ohio, and John Birch received a patent for inventing the cash register. James Ritty invented what was nicknamed the "Incorruptible Cashier" or the first working, mechanical cash register. The machine used metal taps with denominations pressed into them to indicate the amount of the sale. There was a bell to ring up sales. It also had a total adder that summed all the cash values of the key presses during a day. His invention came with that familiar bell sound referred to in advertising as "The Bell Heard Round the World". 

After reading a description of the cash register designed by James Ritty and sold by the National Manufacturing Company, John H Patterson purchased several machines for use in his retail store. Later he decided to buy both the company and the cash register patent for $6500. He renamed the company the National Cash Register Company in 1884. Patterson's, eccentric and aggressiveness, made him a successful businessman. Eighty four companies sold cash registers between 1888 and 1895, only three survived for any length of time. With Patterson's desire to create bigger, better and more thief proof registers, his company was the most successful of all cash register companies in the late 1800's to early 1900's. 

Patterson continued to improve on Ritty's cash register invention, adding spare rolls to reconcile the day's transactions in each price range. This worked by building a hole puncher into each cash register while the paper would have separate invisible columns that would stand for cents and dollars. If the paper had two holes punched in dollars column, for example, and 50 holes punched in the cents column, the total would be Two dollars + fifty cents. When a transaction was completed, a bell rang on the cash register + the amount was stored on a large dial on the front of the machine. During each sale, a paper tape was punched with holes so that the merchant could keep track of sales. At the end of the day, the merchant could add up the holes and therefore his daily cash. In 1906 a cash register was designed with an electric motor, which made it the first powered cash register. 

During the period 1888 to 1915 the cash register, clothed in fancy cast-metal cases, spread into nearly every retail establishment. This period is best typified by the cast brass-encased cash registers, many of which are still available in antique markets today. 

There were cash registers made of materials other than brass. Cast-iron, wood, and even metal stampings were used. Finishes included polished brass, nickel-plate, antiqued copper, paint, and even silver and gold plate. Brass dominated the National Cash Register Company line, which grew to represent 95% of the total market. 

It is difficult to imagine any type of store without a cash register. Yet before 1879, merchants had no such equipment. Few business owners actually knew if they were operating at a profit or a loss. No wonder then, that cash registers became such a boon to companies. Not only were cash registers theft deterrents, they were instruments of a new analytical approach which resulted in a systematized use of information to produce profits. 

Throughout the 1900's many advances have been made in cash registers. Not only have they become harder for thieves to steal, they have made retail and restaurant commerce much easier and more profitable for business owners. Today options such as touch screen computers, scanning of thousands of inventory items, processing credit cards, and printing of items to kitchen printers make the success of business ownership and management much more efficient and effective. 

Many Cash Register companies produce, market, and sell cash registers today. Some of those cash register companies include Samsung, Sam4s, Sharp Electronics, Casio, Royal, TEC, and Sanyo. 

During the last several years the cash register industry has changed dramatically with the introduction of Point of Sale Systems, or computerized cash registers. These Point of Sale Systems are used in all types of industry, but are prevalent in Retail Stores and Restaurants. The Point of Sale Systems, or computerized cash registers use touchscreen point of sale terminals, allow for scanning of items for easy checkouts, allow customers to process credit cards and gift cards with a one step operation and allow business owners to keep inventory of their items. With the recent changes in technology in the Cash Register and Point of Sale industries, we can expect many great things to happen in the future.