Saturday, October 24, 2015

Another Early Corporate Pioneer: John H. Patterson of NCR

This vintage cash register, beautifully restored by an expert with connection to its maker The National Cash Register Co. aka NCR, came under our admiring gaze in an antique store in Checotah, Oklahoma, on our way to the Missouri border this week. The store owner saw us admiring the piece and came over to demonstrate its working and uses. At $8,500 it was, I informed the lady, though a marvellous piece, "well above our pay grade!"

On seeing the photograph husband had taken of the cash register I casually took a look into its maker's history. The man: John H. Patterson. He was born on 13 December 1844 in Dayton, Ohio, and by all accounts he was quite a character!

The cash register idea had originated from another man, James Ritty.
From here:
John H. Patterson, Prophet of Change

A Dayton cafe-owner named James Ritty developed the first cash register. He got the idea on shipboard at sea as he watched an indicator register the revolutions of the ship’s propeller. He had been losing money in his business. What he wanted was a machine which would give publicity to sales and thus remove temptation. The propeller indicator provided the clue. The first cash register was the result. That crude mechanism, born in the dawn of what has become a magic era of mechanization, was as logical in principle and as unerring in purpose as the telephone and the automobile.

While operating his coal mines John H. Patterson ran a general store at Coalton, Ohio. Although he did a big business he found he was losing money. The moment he heard of the cash register he ordered two for the Coalton store. With their introduction his profits increased because the leakage stopped.

The purchase of those cash registers marked the decisive turning point in Patterson’s life. He saw far more in the cash register than a mere recorder of sales. He envisaged it as a necessity to retail business - a keeper of the business conscience. Realizing its vast potentialities for development, he and his brother, Frank j. Patterson, bought the National Manufacturing Company which made the first registers. In 1884 it became The National Cash Register Company which will always be synonymous with John H. Patterson’s career.

NCR became his life and passion, charged with something of the fire and fervor of a crusade. Under his compelling, driving power and his effective technique of salesmanship, both geared to intensive product improvement, he reared a world-wide organization. Like that famous Revolutionary shot fired at Lexington, the bell of the cash register today is heard around the globe.

What, then, were the qualities in John H. Patterson that made him an outstanding industrialist and humanitarian? For one thing he had the simplicity which always attaches to greatness. His energy and enterprise were almost without limit; his vision boundless.......

The above article and several others online tell of the strange mix of humanitarian and control freak that was John H. Patterson. It appears that he treated his employees very well, was a pioneer in offering employee benefits virtually unheard of elsewhere in the industrial world. For instance: hot meals were followed by rest periods, dining rooms, medical service with a dental clinic, visiting nurses, health education, recreational grounds, motion pictures during lunch, clubs for employees, night classes, and vacation and educational trips. He was, though, equally adept at firing his people - en masse at times, if they dared to displease him, even in minor ways. Patterson is named HERE as one of the 10 Worst Bosses. That has to be a tad unfair. He went to extremes both in aiding employees and in firing them though, that's for sure.

Described in numerous good online articles variously as: brilliant, innovative, dictatorial, mercurial, undersized, with gray eyes, florid complexion, sandy hair and bristling moustache; a little man with a dynamo inside, who was both doer and dreamer.....simplicity which always attaches to greatness; energy and enterprise almost without limit; vision boundless.

Does his natal chart reflect any of that?

I have found no birth time for Patterson, so a 12 noon chart has to suffice. We cannot know his rising sign, and Moon's exact degree isn't known though it'd definitely have been in Aquarius.
Born on 13 December 1844 in Dayton, Ohio.

His humanitarian side is immediately reflected by three planets in Aquarius.

Sagittarius Sun in harmonious trine aspect to Pluto in Aries points to a powerful persona, and one not unlikely to go to extremes.

Saturn (Aquarius's trad. ruler) in Aquarius, and in helpful sextile to Uranus (Aquarius's modern ruler) in Aries, ticks several boxes: pioneering Aries; Saturn the stickler for regimentation and rules; Aquarius the humanitarian and innovator; Uranus the forward-looking.

Mercury in realist and business-oriented Capricorn sextiles energetic, dynamic Mars in it's home sign, Scorpio.

Dreamer though? Well...Neptune sextiles Sagittarius Sun on one side, and Aries Pluto on the other - those two in harmony could well bring forth some powerful dreams !

There's likely to be much more, but those factors stand out to me.


mike said...

His Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Uranus are in the early degrees, with Mercury square Uranus, Mars square Saturn, and Mars inconjunct Uranus. You provided the positive aspects, but these additional aspects probably offset those, providing the dual view of his personality. Mars square Saturn is a difficult aspect to effectively soften, particularly in fixed signs, each planet in its rulership...potential for out-of-control energy...foot on the gas pedal and brake at the same time. All of these planets are tied together by the sextile of Saturn-Uranus, the rulers of altruistic, but indifferent Aquarius.

Most of his peers (executives and business owners) at that time were tyrants and lead by fear and callous working conditions, without any of the employee benefits Patterson provided. It seems contrary, but I've noticed that offering superlative working conditions to employees can often bring harsher criticism to the owner-executive. Ironically, kindness is not necessarily reciprocated by the employee and is a bit like a parent over-indulging their child, with the child eventually having greater expectations and becoming spoiled. PBS' "American Experience" recently aired the biography of Walt Disney and he was viewed similarly as Patterson...Disney provided a wonderful work environment, expected loyalty, but was viewed as dictatorial and mean-spirited. Perhaps the best businesses are those owned by the employees, which blends socialism with capitalism.

Off topic - We Texans are under siege by mother nature today and tomorrow. Up to 10" of rain expected today with severe weather conditions continuing into Sunday. The rain has already started and is supposed to steadily intensify hour by hour. Gasp!

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thank you for the additional astrology. Yes, with those good trines and sextiles came some more difficult squares, and the makings of a guy who displayed two very different sides to his nature.

Your point about over-indulging, in either parent/child or employer/employee situations
is a good one. There were probably many of Patterson's employees who adhered to his demands and enjoyed the many benefits of working for him though. We can read about the other kind more easily - media were always looking for the best, most dramatic story - even back then, and that's still the case.

Yikes - That's a lot of water you'll be dealing with. Do stay as dry as poss. and out of danger, please - no cycling today would be a good idea! Perhaps things will be less severe than forecasters expect - that's what we've found here this year at various times. I suspect they give us "worst scenario" adice so that we do not become complacent. Though too much of that kind of thing can eventually lead to the "crying wolf" syndrome. :-/