John H. Patterson, 1844-1922, was a pioneering industrialist, who became famous as the founder and owner of the National Cash Register Company (NCR). Applying scientific methods to industrial reform, his NCR community and employee neighborhood in Dayton’s South Park area became hallmarks of progressive era achievement.
While tragedies like New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 confirmed the need for more industrial reform, Patterson was already a leader in pioneering business practices. His “daylight factories” with floor to ceiling glass windows, his pleasant Olmstead Brothers designed landscaping around NCR, and his sales training program were soon emulated by businesses around the country.
Sometimes greatest blessings are also greatest curses, as lately Patterson is seen as less a progressive reformer and more as the last in a long line of tyrannical “gilded age” industrialists. In 2009, he was voted the #9 all-time worst American CEO by CNBC. Regardless, he and his family’s imprint on the city of Dayton is irrefutable.
On his orders NCR shut down during the great Dayton flood of 1913 and the factory’s buildings served as the center for recovery efforts. It was Patterson also who envisioned the need for managed flood-control and watershed for the Great Miami River. This later became known as the Miami Valley Conservancy District.
Long after Patterson’s passing, his NCR continues to thrive and for many years served as a major employer in the city of Dayton and surrounding Miami Valley region. After 125 years with its headquarters in Dayton, NCR moved its operations to Duluth, GA in 2009.
The images below are of Patterson, his family, and his legacy. For more on these see MS-236, The Patterson Family Papers http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms236.pdf at Wright State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives. Also, please see the exhibit on the first floor of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at Wright State chronicling the Patterson family’s role in the Civil War. The exhibit was done in partnership between Wright State University Libraries and the exhibit designers, Jeffery Landis and Lisa Kell.
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