Cash Register

Cash registers help deter theft and led to modern bookkeeping.

Ritty was a saloon owner who had problems with employee theft.

He invented and patented the cash register, calling it the “Incorruptible Cashier” and created a company to sell it.

There was little interest and he tired of simultaneously running two businesses, one manufacturing and selling cash registers and the saloon. He sold the cash register company to John Patterson in 1884 for $6,500.

Patterson renamed it the National Cash Register, or NCR. In 2018, NCR has a market cap of $3.5B. Ritty had a ferocious focus on sales, demanding his salesmen (they were all men) act professionally, wear dark suits, white shirts, and patternless ties.

NCR executive Thomas Watson was forced to resign from NCR following a criminal anti-trust scandal. Watson eventually took over a small automation company, the Computer-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).

As CTR grew, Watson focused on research and building ever better and more powerful machines. Eventually, when the New Deal came about, his company had the only machines powerful enough to keep track of records needed for social security income, payments, and overtime reporting. Watson subsequently renamed his company International Business Machines, or IBM, and never shied away from explaining many of his management practices came from NCR.

Ritty and Patterson remained friendly as NCR grew, with Ritty often invited to NCR events and parties. Despite NCR’s financial success, Ritty never expressed any regret at selling the company, apparently preferring to operate saloons.

Besides spawning two Fortune 500 companies, Ritty’s Pony House Salon hosted an eclectic group of patrons. Buffalo Bill Cody, gangster John Dillinger, and boxer Jack Dempsey were all customers.

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Ritty’s Pony House Salon