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The earliest type was a two-piece hollow wooden ball which ran along sloping rails, carrying cash and sales docket or receipt. One set of rails sloped down from sales desk to cash office and another set sloped in the opposite direction. This was known as a cash railway. William Stickney Lamson of Lowell, Massachusetts patented this system in 1881. His invention soon attracted the interest of other shopkeepers and in 1882 the Lamson Cash Carrier Company was incorporated in Boston. A working example can be seen in the Co-operative store at Beamish Museum in North East England and one is still in its original location in the Up-To-Date Store, now a museum, at Coolamon, New South Wales.
The next type was a carriage suspended on pulleys from a wire between sales desk, launched from a catapult. The best-known types were "Rapid Wire" and "Air-Line."
- Air-Line Company
- The Air-Line Company was based in the United States. It manufactured a Gipe designed system. A cord passed over multiple pulleys to propel the car. Lamsons took over Air-Line and cars usually have "Air-Line" on one side and "Lamson" on the other.
- Baldwins were based in Chicago. Their cash carrier systems were usually known as "Baldwin Flyers".
- British Cash & Parcel Conveyors
- A British competitor to Lamson which eventually was subsumed.
- Dart Cash
- Dart Cash was a British company established by a grocer from Stoke on Trent, William Alfred Edwards. It was a simple gravity carrier patented in 1918. Later enhancements included a spring for propulsion. As well as wire systems, Dart also made Pneumatic cash carriers.
- Gipe were an American company founded by Emanuel Clarence Gipe of Freeport, Illinois. Gipe installations were popular in England.
- The Lamson Company dominated the market. It was known at various times as the Lamson Cash Carrier Company, the Lamson Cash Railway Company, the Lamson Store Service Company, the Lamson Consolidated Store Service Company, the Lamson Company Inc. and in the UK the Lamson Engineering Company Ltd. Lamsons purchased the Rapid Service Store Railway Company of Detroit which licensed an invention by Robert McCarty of Detroit, Michigan and their system became known as Lamson Rapid Wire. They also made cable systems and pneumatic tube systems.
- Sturtevants of Boston, Massachusetts was an offshoot of an American company. They purchased part of Reid Brothers around the early 1920s and the pneumatic tube business of Cooke, Troughton and Simms. In 1949 they sold up to Lamson.
Pneumatic tube systems
Several of the above companies also made pneumatic tube systems - see Lamson tube. They are still installed in a few shops. Modern pneumatic tube systems are also now used in supermarkets for moving cash in bulk from tills to the central cash office.