John Henry Patterson (NCR owner)
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|John Henry Patterson|
John H. Patterson
|Born||December 13, 1844|
|Died||May 7, 1922(aged 77)|
|Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio|
|Alma mater||Miami University, Dartmouth College|
|Known for||Founder of National Cash Register Company, led recovery effort after the Great Dayton Flood|
|Awards||John Scott Medal (1901)|
Patterson was born in 1844 on the family farm near Dayton, Ohio. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he worked on his father's farm, collected tolls on the Miami and Erie Canal, and ran a coal yard with his two brothers. As the general manager of the Southern Coal and Iron Company at Coalton, Ohio, he ran the company store. The books showed that the store should have made a profit of $12,000 a year, but it was actually losing $6,000 per year due to dishonest clerks. After buying two of "Ritty's Incorruptible cashier" machines from the National Manufacturing Company, Patterson and his brother bought the company in 1884, renaming it "National Cash Register, Inc."
Pioneering business practices
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 Olmsted to landscape the grounds of the National Cash Register Company campus in Dayton, with spacious lawns and landscaping with colorful plantings. Olmsted 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.
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). He also coined a phrase for his service division which, until about the time the company was bought by AT&T, hung on the wall of every service department in the company. The phrase was, "We Cannot Afford To Have A Single Dissatisfied Customer".
NCR and IBM
Patterson was famous for firing Thomas Watson Sr, who went on to become General Manager, then President, of CTR, later renamed IBM. So many prominent businessmen were trained and fired by Patterson that some business historians regarded experience at NCR as the rough equivalent of an MBA degree. Patterson was also famous for firing many people on rather trivial grounds, for example, if they could not tell him why the flags happened to be flying that day or for not riding a horse properly.
Great Dayton Flood
Both Patterson and Watson were sentenced to one year imprisonment for unfair business practices, later overturned by appeal; both were later pardoned by President Woodrow Wilson as a result of their leadership roles in dealing with the Great Dayton Flood of 1913. During that disaster, John H. Patterson led the recovery efforts. NCR employees built nearly 300 flat-bottomed boats and Patterson organized rescue teams to save the thousands of people stranded on roofs and the upper stories of buildings. He turned the NCR factory on Stewart Street into an emergency shelter providing food and lodging, and he organized local doctors and nurses to provide medical care. Patterson's vision for a managed watershed for the Great Miami River resulted in the development of the Miami Conservancy District, one of the first major flood control districts in the United States.
Patterson attended Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1867. He was something of a health fanatic, and adopted one regimen after another, most of which were required of his executives and employees. While at Miami, Patterson was a member of Beta Theta Pi.
Patterson lived in his Swiss chalet estate "The Far Hills" in Oakwood, Montgomery County, Ohio. Patterson loved the Adirondacks and built his summer estate on Beaver Lake in New York. His family built two other estates on the lake. All three estates still exist, two as church camps, one as private bed and breakfast.
John Patterson is also renowned as a text book example of an individual who demonstrated a clear need for total control of everything around him. Following is an excerpt from a 2009 article in Portfolio.com, declaring Patterson the ninth worst American CEO of all time:
The tyrannical Patterson liked to fire and then rehire executives to break their self-esteem. He banned “harmful” foods—including bread and butter—from company premises and had employees weighed and measured every six months. In 1913, he and 29 NCR officials were convicted of various antitrust violations, including the use of “knockout men” to intimidate store owners and keep them from buying from NCR’s competitors. (The conviction was overturned a year later.) Patterson may be best known for firing Thomas Watson, who went on to build IBM.
Rumors of abusive behavior in his personal life were rife in tabloids of the time, and thus may be exaggerated. One such claim implied he frequently choked women in his personal life. The book The Two-Edged Sword by William H. Hampton and Virginia S. Burnham details Patterson's abusive behavior, suggests a possible mental illness, classified Patterson as a paranoid.
Death and legacy
Patterson died on May 7, 1922, two days after reviewing plans with General Billy Mitchell to develop a center for aviation research in Dayton. He is interred in the Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio. He left no great fortune because of his expenditures on social programs at his company, 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.
Mr. Patterson was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1979.
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.
- Carson, Gerald (August 1966). "The Machine That Kept Them Honest". American Heritage 17 (5).
- Damon Poeter (September 20, 2011). "10 Really Dumb Tech Debacles: NCR Fires Thomas Watson". PC Magazine. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- "Portfolio's Worst American CEOs of All Time". CNBC. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
- Frederik Nebeker (December 2004). "Engineering Hall of Fame: John Patterson and William Burroughs, Electromechanical Information Processing Pioneers". Today's Engineer Online. Retrieved September 5, 2012.
- Samuel Crowther. John H Patterson: Pioneer in Industrial Welfare [With plates, including portraits]. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1923.
- Hampton and Burnham, William and Virginia. The Two-Edged Sword a study of the Paranoid Personality in Action. unknown.
- Patterson Sales Strategy from the website of Harvard Business School
- Mission and History from the website of The Dayton Foundation
- Patterson homestead from the website of Montgomery County, Ohio's official historical organization
- Patterson Family Papers from the Wright State University Libraries website
- The Man on the Job at Dayton from Dayton History Books Online, a CityMax-hosted website created by Curt Dalton