James Jacob Ritty, saloonkeeper and inventor, opened his first saloon in Dayton, Ohio in 1871.
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."
Ritty's machine did not have a cash drawer. Instead, it simply recorded the number of sales and also the amount of each one. This machine allowed Ritty to keep accurate track of the number of sales and the amount of each sale that was made.
Upon patenting his invention, Ritty established a company to manufacture the cash registers in Dayton. Unfortunately, Ritty's invention did not draw much enthusiasm from other business owners, and Ritty's new company quickly closed. Ritty eventually sold his patent to a group of Ohio investors. Among them was John H. Patterson, who eventually turned Ritty's invention into a fortune. In 1884, Patterson founded the National Cash Register Company.
After selling his patent, Ritty remained in the bar business. He finally retired in 1895, primarily due to poor health. He remained in Dayton for the rest of his life, dying on March 29, 1918.