Prominent Local Figures: James Ritty

After opening his first saloon in Dayton, James “Jake” Ritty had a problem.

Jake’s employees were stealing, and he could not prove it. Stressed over the deficit in his profits, Jake decided to sail to Europe to get away for a while.

While on the ship, he took notice of a device in the engine room recording the revolutions of the propeller shaft. Watching this device in action, it occurred to him that if machinery had been made to record the number of times a wheel turned, that something could also be made to record the number of dimes, nickels, quarters and other coins that come across the counter in exchange for goods.

Feeling inspired and optimistic, he cut his European trip short and came back to Dayton to work on his idea. With his brother John’s help, he made a few prototypes, and after the third design, success.


The Incorruptible Cashier at the Engineers Club of Dayton.

The brothers opened a small factory in Dayton, manufacturing “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier” until, feeling overwhelmed, he sold his interests in the cash register business. Of the investors who took over the business, John H. Patterson soon became the majority owner. In 1884, the business was renamed National Cash Register.

Jake did not resent Patterson’s giant gain from his invention, however, and he often accompanied Patterson to NCR events and conferences.

Jake opened another saloon, the Pony House, and commissioned wood carvers to build a large wooden bar. When the bar was closed down in 1967, the bar was saved by Jay’s Seafood, which is named for James/Jake.

Jake Ritty died in 1918 of heart trouble at the ripe age of 81. He is buried with his wife in Woodland Cemetery.

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