Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Artifacts at the Archives

Today was an exciting day at the Archives. A passel of new artifacts came in--big, heavy artifacts. My favorite one is this awesome cash register. No fewer than 6 people were clustered around it today, back in the climate-controlled storage area, in a frenzy to 1. tease open the cash drawer and 2. determine its year of make.

I scurried off to look up the serial number on the computer as our museum assistant used careful museumy techniques and delicate museum tools to very gently coax open the cash drawer. He and our Archives director made a bet over the date. Who knows what was in there? A thousand dollars? A love letter delivered to a cashier decades ago and shoved under the drawer in embarrassment? Excitement was at a fever pitch.

I found the serial number corresponded to 1904 and ran off to let our museum assistant know. He and our archives director began a lively debate over the year. Our archives director said that the date could be nailed down by measuring the size of the cash drawer since United States currency was smallified in 1928! Great golly! What a phenomenally interesting fact! He got out a currency book from our library and traced and cut out a sample blank of pre-1928 money to see if it fit in the cash drawer.

It did...in only one drawer. Perplexing.. .confusing... meanwhile, we'd noticed one special row of buttons were labeled "tire tubes," "oil change," "tire service"--it was a cash register from a service station! Which likely puts it later than 1904, when cars were quite rare in town. But not too much later--there are only 4 display flaps to show the money amount charged up. It couldn't ring up more than $99.99.

We still don't know! The drawer may have been swapped out when money was reduced in size, and it's still not clear whether it was powered mechanically by some (missing) ratchet or crank, or whether it was electric. I personally think it's way pre-electric. My own guess is 20s or 30s. How about yours?

That giant Coke sign is pretty cool too. There is no room for it at the Museum, so its future is uncertain at present. But it's safe in the deepest part of the Museum for now. The other visible artifacts are some cool old scales. Phew! Coolness blowout!


Dusty D said...

I note there is an assumption in my post...that because the register had buttons for "tire service" &c. it was from a service station. That may not be the case at all. Perhaps a service station in Dayton, OH was going out of business and sold its register to a brother-in-law who ran a...Ypsi restaurant that was just starting up and bought it at a discount, never using the "tire" keys, but using the register for the next 40 years. You just can't make assumptions, is what I keep learning over and over.

Phantom Railfan said...

Just a guess on my part, but I'd say since it references "tire tubes" on one of the buttons, and the outer case seems to have a lack of ornamentation or other fancy stuff, I'm going to say it dates to sometime between the mid-1930s and the middle194Os. I believe tubeless tires were introduced circa 1947, and it seems like the few cash registers I've seen from prior to the '30s had lots of scrollwork and other decoration on the outside. This looks kind of streamlined to me...

Dusty D said...

Phantom Railfan, another person there that day said the same thing about tubeless tires, so it does seem it's at least pre-circa-'47. Your comment about the lack of ornamentation rings true to me; this is really utilitarian. Your guess is the same as our assistant museum director....haven't pinned down the date yet, but I'll definitely post it when it is.