James Ritty


Below is a first person narrative of James Ritty as if it were spoken by the inventor himself:

Hi!  My name is James Ritty.  I was born in Dayton, Ohio in the year 1837.  I died in 1918 and was buried at the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.  I have had some accomplishments in my life and am known by many of them.

The Pony House I owned a local saloon in Dayton called the Pony House. I opened my bar in 1882.  The Pony House was well known for dining, drinking, and gaming all in one.  At my saloon, beer was a nickel a glass and 15 cents a bucket.  Every day you could get a free lunch. It included two boiled eggs, sardines, blind robins, cold meat, pigs feet, pickles, pretzels, crackers and bread.  It was very popular with the salesmen who traveled by train because the saloon was located
close to the train depot.  Location, location, location is a key phrase to remember for any businessman. The Pony House wasn't always a saloon.  Before I opened it up as my business, it had been a school house for young girls.  The building was made up of 5,400 pounds of Honduras mahogany wood.  The wood carvers of Barny and Smith changed many pounds of wood into a masterpiece. My bar even made it through the Prohibition Years.  I believe I was told that my bar almost fell victim to the wrecking ball when a man named William H. Eicher completely moved the building to preserve it. I guess he wanted it to be part of Dayton, Ohio's history. In 1878, I was on a steamship traveling to Europe.  I became intrigued by the mechanism that counted how many times the ship's propeller went around.  I called my trip short when I came up with an idea about making a machine that would count my own sales at the saloon.  It had been a problem at my place of business and I needed to create something that would keep track of the money and the amount of sales.

When I returned home, I asked my brother to help me build such a machine.  My brother, John Ritty, and I started right away.  I wanted to find out a way to stop my clerks from stealing my earnings! The first attempt was a total failure.  The machine was totally inaccurate.  Our first model looked like a clock with a keyboard.  This model had hands just like a clock, but instead of indicating minutes and hours they indicated dollars and cents.  The second one wasn't all that better.  None of these models were ever marketed, but the third one was.  John had improved it by adding a paper roll to it so it could record the clerk's sales.  The cash register would have a hole puncher built into it and the paper would have separate invisible columns that would stand for cents or dollars.  If the paper had 3 holes punched in the dollars column and 7 holes punched in the cent column, the total would be three dollars and seven cents.

My brother and I were not doing so well.  We couldn't sell our machine to other people so we decided to sell our patent in 1882 to John H. Patterson.  I think Patterson realized the potential it had and decided to buy it. In the following years, he made it a success and became the founder of the National Cash Register Company.  I retired from the bar business in 1895.

The cash register is a complex mechanism.  The cash register is made up of gears, sprockets, pins, arms, blocks, and a shaft.  Some cash registers work differently.  There are two kinds of cash registers that I know of, the lever action and the key action.  When using a lever action cash register, you pull the lever to the desired amount, causing a cog wheel to set the printing mechanism to the selected amount.  Then it prints it on the receipt.  This type of cash register isn't usually used any more.
The key action cash register is a lot more complex, believe it or not.  All the little gadgets are too weird to explain right now.  I don't know it very well partly because the electronic ones weren't around when I was alive.  The old key action worked with electronic motors and pivot gears which get confusing even to a man like me.
Cash register When I look around right now, I see some of you with a calculator.  This brings up a point.  Did you know that those calculators are kind of like a cash register?  The schematics are the same as a cash register, but more compact.  So, in a way, I'm the inventor of the calculator too!  Or, at least, my research lead to the creation of the calculator.  In conclusion, I hope you learned a little about me and a lot on cash registers.  I hope you will remember who invented the first cash register at all times.  It was James Ritty of Dayton, Ohio.

James Ritty

James Ritty