From Ohio History Central
John H. Patterson Photograph, Courtesy of Montgomery County Historical Society.
John Henry Patterson was born on December 13, 1844, near Dayton, Ohio. He spent his early years attending public schools in Dayton, as well as working in his father's saw and gristmills. During the American Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army but served only one hundred days near the war's conclusion.
Following the Civil War, Patterson enrolled in Dartmouth College, graduating in 1867. He became a collector of tolls on the Miami and Erie Canal that same year, a position that he held until 1870. In 1870, Patterson became involved in the coal industry, serving as manager of the Southern Ohio Coal and Iron Company.
In 1882, Patterson became a partial owner of the National Manufacturing Company in Dayton, Ohio. This company made cash registers. In 1884, Patterson bought out the other investors and formed the National Cash Register Company. The company grew slowly, producing only sixteen thousand registers in its first decade in operation. Through aggressive marketing and advertising, by 1914, the National Cash Register Company was producing 110,000 cash registers per year.
Patterson was well known for his compassion for his employees. He provided women workers with coffee and soup for lunch. Machine operators sat on actual chairs with backs for support rather than on stools. He provided his workers with indoor bathrooms. Patterson implemented a ventilation system to provide clean air to his workers. He also maintained a doctor's office in his factory to assist injured workers as quickly as possible.
Patterson also engaged in civic work as well. Following the Dayton flood of 1913, the National Cash Register Company provided approximately one million dollars to assist people in recovering from the disaster. The company allocated an additional 600,000 dollars to study how the community could prevent flooding in the future. In addition to these efforts, Patterson donated money to help build parks and playgrounds. He also allocated funds to create the first public kindergarten in Dayton. Patterson died on May 2, 1922.