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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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1135 Main (right half of the building). Photo in 2011.

NATIONAL CASH REGISTER COMPANY (THE). Begun as the National Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio, the company was established to manufacture and sell the first mechanical cash register, invented in 1879 by James Ritty. In 1884 the company and patents were bought by John Henry Patterson and his brother Frank Jefferson Patterson. The firm was renamed the National Cash Register Company. Patterson formed NCR into one of the first modern American companies, introducing new, aggressive sales methods and business techniques.

When John H. Patterson and his brother took over the company, cash registers were expensive ($50 USD) and only about a dozen of "Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier" machines were in use. Patterson believed, however, that the product would sell once shopkeepers understood it would decrease theft by salesclerks. He created a sales force, called the "American Selling Force" which worked on commissions and followed a standard sales script, the "N.C.R. Primer." The philosophy was to sell a business function, rather than just a piece of machinery. Sale demonstrations were set up in hotels (away from the distractions of the buyer's business), depicting a store interior, complete with real merchandise and real cash. The sale prospect was described as the "P.P." or "Probable Purchaser." Once initial objections were swept aside and the P.P. admitted to internal theft losses, the product was demonstrated, along with large business charts and diagrams. The deal was sealed with a 25 cent cigar.

John Patterson introduced a comprehensive social welfare program for his factory workers. He provided women workers with coffee and soup for lunch, machine operators sat on actual chairs with backs for support rather on stools, and workers had indoor bathrooms. Patterson devised a ventilation system to provide clean air to his workers. He also opened a doctor's office in his factory to assist injured workers as quickly as possible.

The National Cash Register Company was involved in civic work as well. Following the Dayton flood of 1913, the company provided approximately one million dollars to assist people in recovering from the disaster. The company provided an additional $600,000 to study how the community could prevent flooding in the future. In addition to these efforts, Patterson donated money to help build parks and playgrounds and funds to create the first public kindergarten in Dayton.

The company grew slowly, producing only sixteen thousand registers in its first decade in operation. Through aggressive marketing and advertising, by 1914, the National Cash Register Company was producing 110,000 cash registers per year.

Patterson died on May 2, 1922. His son, Frederick B. Patterson, assumed control of the National Cash Register Company. That same year, the company produced its two millionth cash register. It also had begun producing other business machines. During World War I and World War II, the National Cash Register Company helped the United States' war effort by manufacturing shell fuses, plane engines, and code-breaking machines, among many other items.

During the 1950s and the 1960s, the National Cash Register Company began to produce computers. In 1974, it changed its name to NCR Corporation to symbolize its more diverse product line. In 1991, AT&T acquired the NCR Corporation but decided to end its control of NCR Corporation in 1997. NCR Corporation continues to operate in the early 2000s, specializing in office equipment.

In Dubuque:

The 1899-1900 Dubuque City Directory listed 128 9th.

The 1911-12 Dubuque City Directory listed 69 8th.

The 1922 telephone directory listed 313 W. 8th.

The 1939 and 1941 Dubuque City Directory listed the address as 1135 Main.

The 1942 Dubuque Classified Business Directory listed 1127 Main.

The 1948 Dubuque Classified Business Directory through 1957 Dubuque City Directory listed 240 W. 3rd.

The 1964 and 1966 Dubuque City Directory listed 1324 Central.

The 1968 Dubuque City Directory listed 1098 Main.

The 1970 through 1993 Dubuque City Directory listed 645 Century Drive. By 1977 it was called N C R CORPORATION.




National Cash Register Company--www.ohiohistorycentral.org › History › Organizations