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HISTORICALLY CY-FAIR – Cash Registers Brought the Sounds of Christmas Bells

| December 1, 2015

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Views of the 1903 NCR cash register from the front, from behind and a close-up of the personlized name plate made for E.F. Juergen.

Christmas bells mean many things to different people, but many will recall the quote from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life: “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” Since the movie was cashing in on the Christmas spirit, I wonder if it was inspired by the “Ka-ching” sound of money being rung-up in the then ubiquitous machines of the National Cash Register Company (NCR).

The store of Cypress Top Historic Park contains three NCR cash registers. One dates from 1898 or 1899, one from 1903 and the most recent from about 1929. The big 1903 machine is personalized and has E.F Juergen’s name cast into the brass above the keyboard as part of the decorative motif. The two early machines are elaborate brass, nickel and marble; the one from the 1929 is much more austere. These early registers were marketed to prevent cashier theft but were elaborately made to impress the customers and make the machines more acceptable. The early versions did not have addition or subtraction capability; the cashier simple rung up the items and then added the numbers displayed. This was not a problem in the saloon, where normally only one or two items such as a drink and cigar were purchased at a time. The larger, more recent versions eventually added the totals and had a printed tape for the customer that displayed the item cost and totaled the sale, as sales tapes do today.

I am uncertain when the characteristic ringing was lost, but cash registers had lost most of their appeal by the time they stopped sounding like ringing bells. They evolved to huge ugly behemoths that chugged and rattled as they totaled the sale, printed the receipt and opened the cash drawer. Today they are silent background computers hooked to beeping bar code readers, keyboards and cash drawers each remote from one another and hardly recognizable as a cash register. I see that in the near future there will not even be a drawer for cash, since cash itself is quickly being replaced by a computer chip as in a card or cell phone.

The old simple and elegant registers of the past century had character and their passing is lamentable.

To hear the cash registers and to learn more about Texas or Cypress history, visit Commissioner Steve Radack’s Cypress Top Historic Park at 26026 Old Hempstead Hwy., open daily from dawn to 7 p.m. The museum buildings are open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Contact the park at cypresstop@pct3.com or 281-357-5324 to arrange a special tour.

The Cypress Historical Society has more information on the museum buildings, special tours, and on available genealogy and history information. Visit the website   cypresshistoricalsociety.com, email the society at cypresshistoricalsociety@att.net or call 281-758-0083.

Sponsored by North Cypress Medical Center

Historical facts courtesy of Cypress Top Historic Park Collection & Cypress Historical Society: Preserving Cypress History for Posterity.

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Category: History

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