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John H. Patterson

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15 December, 1844, , USA
14 May, 1922, Dayton, Ohio, USA

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Achievement

Founds NCR

Biography

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John Henry Patterson (December 13, 1844-May 14, 1922) was an industrialist and founder of the National Cash Register Company. He was a business innovator, sales genius, social progressive, patriot, and benevolent tyrant.

Based on a 16-page handbook written by his brother-in-law, Patterson established the world's first sales training school on the grounds of the NCR factory campus (at Sugar Camp in Dayton, Ohio).

ncr school

In 1893 he constructed the first "daylight factory" buildings with floor to ceiling glass windows that let in light and could be opened to let in fresh air as well. This was in an era when "sweatshops" were still in operation elsewhere. He hired John Charles Olmstead to landscape the grounds of the National Cash Register Company campus in Dayton, with spacious lawns and landscaping with colorful plantings. Olmstead also had a hand in designing the residential community surrounding the plant (South Park) as well as a park system for the City of Dayton. He lived in his Swiss chalet estate "The Far Hills" in Oakwood, Montgomery County, Ohio. He is considered the father of Oakwood.

Patterson was something of a health fanatic, and adopted one regimen after another, most of which were required of his executives and employees.

He was famous for hiring and firing Thomas Watson Sr, who went on to found IBM. In fact, "John H." was famous for firing many people on rather trivial grounds, for example, if they couldn't tell him why the flags happened to be flying that day or for not riding a horse properly.

Watson's stint at NCR shaped him and helped him build the power of IBM. Both Patterson and Watson were sentenced to one year imprisonment for unfair business practices, later overturned by appeal. Meanwhile, both Patterson and Watson had been pardoned by President Woodrow Wilson as a result of their leadership roles in dealing with the Dayton 1913 flood.

Patterson's methods influenced United States business for a generation. In the period 1910-1930 it was estimated that one-sixth of United States business executives were former NCR executives.

When he died in 1922, unlike his contemporaries, he left no great fortune because of his expeditures on social programs at the Cash, and because he believed that "shrouds have no pockets." He left ownership of the company to his son Frederick Beck Patterson who took it public in 1925. $55 million in stock was offered to the public in what was the largest business public offering up to that time.

John Henry Patterson is interred in the Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio.

 

Chronology

1951 published "The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer";

Ph.D. in computer science at Cambridge UK


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Honors and awards

1975 A. M. Turing Award for his work on computer science.

 

Bibliography

1977 Models of Bounded Rationality

 

 

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