Today in Entrepreneurial History: November 4

Cash Register

On this date in 1879, James Ritty, a saloonkeeper and inventor patented the world’s first cash register as “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.”

Wikipedia has more details:

James Jacob Ritty, saloonkeeper and inventor, opened his first saloon in Dayton, Ohio in 1879, billing himself as a “Dealer in Pure Whiskies, Fine Wines, and Cigars.” Some of Ritty’s employees would take the customers’ money and pocket it, rather than depositing the cash that was meant to pay for the food, drink, and other wares. In 1878 while on a steamboat trip to Europe, Ritty became intrigued by a mechanism that counted how many times the ship’s propeller went around. He wondered if something like this could be made to record the cash transactions made at his saloon.

As soon as he got home to Dayton, Ritty and his brother John, a skilled mechanic, began working on a design for such a device. After several failed prototypes, the third design operated by pressing a key that represented a specific amount of money. There was no cash drawer. James and John Ritty patented the design in 1879 as “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.”

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