The company began as the National Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio, which was established to manufacture and sell the first mechanical cash register, invented in 1879 by James Ritty. In 1884 the company and patents were bought by John Henry Patterson and his brother Frank Jefferson Patterson and the firm was renamed the National Cash Register Company. Patterson formed NCR into one of the first modern American companies, introducing new, aggressive sales methods and business techniques. He established the first sales training school in 1893, and introduced a comprehensive social welfare program for his factory workers.
Other significant figures in the early history of the company were Charles F. Kettering, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. and Edward A. Deeds. Watson, the founder of IBM, eventually worked his way up to general sales manager. Bent on inspiring the dispirited NCR sales force, Watson introduced the motto “THINK!” Signs with this motto were erected in factory buildings, sales offices, and club rooms during the mid-1890s. “THINK” later became a widely-known symbol of IBM. Kettering designed the first cash register powered by an electric motor in 1906. Within a few years he developed the Class 1000 register which was in production for 40 years, and the O.K. Telephone Credit Authorization system for verifying credit in department stores.