Cha-Ching: The Bell Heard Around the World


This past week, while working on a scene set in a general store, I got to wondering when cash registers might have been found in the Old West. I was surprised to discover that the cash register (called a Cashier at the time) was invented in 1879 by a saloon owner.

James Ritty (public domain)

James Jacob Ritty, owner of the popular Pony House Saloon in Dayton, Ohio, knew something was wrong.  Buffalo Bill and John Dillinger were among his many customers and business was booming.  Still he saw no profit.  He was suspicious that his bartenders were dipping into the till but couldn’t prove it.

The problem was very much on his mind during a sailing trip to Europe. While studying the ship’s mechanics, particularly the counting mechanism that recorded the propeller’s revolutions, he got an idea; why not invent a device that would record a shop’s sales? 

Upon returning to the states, he ran his idea by his brother, John, and after a couple of false starts, the two patented what became known as Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier. 

Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier 1879. public domain

The machine had a clock-like feature that rang up sales, but no cash drawer.  During each sale, a paper tape was punched with holes so that the merchant could keep track of sales. At the end of the day, the merchant could add up the holes.  This was no easy task. Even though the machine was designed to record daily sales no greater than $12.99, the tally could be as long as twenty feet.

Their invention worked and Ritty’s profits rose, but it wasn’t fool proof. Without a cash drawer, money still turned up in the wrong pockets.

The brothers later added a cash drawer and the Cha-Ching sound that shop owners love to hear.  (It’s thought that merchants came up with odd prices like forty-nine or ninety-nine cents, so cashiers would have to open the till to make change. This helped insure that all sales were recorded.)

The brothers opened a factory above the saloon. Running two businesses soon proved too much for James, and he sold his cashier business to a group of investors.  Eventually, the company sold to John H. Patterson who renamed it the National Cash Register Corporation.

The Thief Catcher

By the 1880s, cash registers could be found in retail shops across the country.  Though the new and improved registers aided bookkeeping and inventory chores, they were resented by clerks.  It’s easy to understand why; the machines were called “thief catchers.”  Honest clerks resented the implication and dishonest clerks missed the extra income.   

But then, as now, enterprising thieves always found a way. 

Speaking of thieves, do you always ask for receipts, even at fast food outlets?  If not, you should. Dishonest clerks can do a lot with unclaimed receipts–and none of it good!


The only thing threatening their success is love!


Crop Circles, Aliens and The American Indian Myth


Strange title, eh?  Or maybe not.  An entire series of my books, THE LOST CLAN, is based on a myth that is common throughout the American Indian myths — tribe to tribe.  The story of the Thunderer.

I will be giving away a mass market copy and an e-book copy of the book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE today to two lucky bloggers.  So do come on in an leave a comment.  All rules for give-aways here at Petticoats and Pistols appy — they are linked on the home page.  When you have a moment, give them a read.  Pretty easy.

Okay, back to myths.  There is another myth that caught my interest early on — and it is the one I thought I’d discuss with you today.  At the time I came upon this American Indian myth, I knew nothing about crop circles — had never heard of them — but this myth in the Americas brings these things so closely to mind.

The book, SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE, is based in no small degree upon this myth, and the book actually starts with the hero and heroine and the myth.  Interestingly, I found this myth not in just one tribe — but several — and the thing is, it was told almost (but not quite) identically.  The myth I’m about to tell you is from the Shawnee.stortell[1]

I believe that the name of the hero (it’s from a children’s book that I’m quoting) is Red Hawk, and the name of the book is RED HAWK AND THE SKY SISTERS by Gloria Dominic and Charles Reasoner.  Again, this legend is repeated in several different tribes — although the hero’s name is often different.

Red Hawk is a great hunter.  But he is puzzled because he sees the same pattern of a circle imprinted in the prairie grasses each time he goes to hunt.  It is a perfect circle — but there are no paths leading up to it — or going away from it.  There is evidence that something was there and made the circle — but how?  Red Hawk decides to spend the night, hiding himself from view.

51GoIbPuXOL._SL110_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-sm,TopRight,10,-13_OU01_[1]And so he does.  He discovers by hiding himself, that a basket gently falls to the earth and that there is singing from feminine voices.  As the basket comes to land softly on the earth, the sisters alight from the basket and dance around it in a circle.  Red Hawk watches this for many nights until one night he falls in love with one of the sisters — the youngest I believe.  And so, once again hiding himself, he waits until the sisters are about to get into the basket and go back into the sky — but suddenly he jumps out from his hiding place and captures the woman of his heart.

They marry and are happy, but she misses her home in the sky (she is a star).  They have a  child and she wishes to take the child and return to visit her home in the sky.  Our hero lets her go, but keeps the child with him, hoping that the child will be enough to cause her to return.  When she doesn’t return, our hero again captures her, and she falls in love with him all over and they live happily ever after.

th[1]I did find that the ending varies a bit from tribe to tribe, and I’m uncertain of how this book ends the story — I have this book, but of course, needing to find it for this post, the book eludes me.  : )

So what does this have to do with crop circles and aliens.  Well, I found it very interesting that crop circles seem similar and are also tied to aliens — here’s a link, if you’ve never heard of crop circles:

flower[1]Here is a picture of an actual crop circle — where the crops have been bent back without any footprints to or from the circle.   They are usually made at night — and made within one night.

Although attributed to more modern times, it’s interesting to me that our legend goes back centuries — to come to us today — to perhaps make the crop circle even more mysterious.

SoaringEaglesEmbrace72LGHope you’ve enjoyed the post today.  And I hope I’ve created some interest in the American Indian myth.

Here’s the link to buy SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE.

And don’t forget, my newest release, BLACK EAGLE is on sale right now, also.  Here’s that link:


Black Friday All Week Long

Do you remember when you’d never hear Christmas music in stores until the day after Thanksgiving? Now you can’t even shop for Halloween decorations without tripping over Christmas trees and tinsel. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that in a country so invested in the capitalist dream, we find ways to extend the spirit of shopping as far as possible. Why, take Black Friday for instance. It use to be actually on – shocker – Friday. Now it starts Thanksgiving night. Or worse, it goes all week. Especially for online retailers. Where is the tradition of getting up before the crack of dawn on Friday morning and standing in line in the freezing cold waiting for a store to open? Come on, people. This is tradition! Well . . . okay . . . not for me. Never has been.

My idea of a good Black Friday, is keeping my eyes shut and sleeping in with my husband. Then lazing around the house all day, eating leftover turkey, playing games with the kids, and yes, probably watching some football. The important thing for me is avoiding the retail craziness at all cost.

For a day that has become famous for spurring the economy, I found it rather ironic that the first Black Friday became famous for crashing it.

During reconstruction, following the Civil War, the nation’s economy was at a devastating low point. In order to stimulate economic growth, President Grant made an effort to reduce the supply of paper money or greenbacks by offering to buy them from citizens at a discount and replacing them with currency backed by gold.

However, in 1869 a pair of shady financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, came up with a scheme to profit from the government’s plan by cornering the gold market. If they could convince Grant not to sell gold to the public, they themselves could buy it up in large quantities and watch the price soar. Then, when it peaked, they would sell out and make a fortune. But how were they to influence President Grant?

Gould and Fisk recruited Abel Corbin, a financier who just happened to be married to Grant’s sister, Virginia. Corbin arranged invitations to social engagements for Gould and Fisk where the two used their charm and persuasion to argue against the government sale of gold, bending Grant’s ear. Grant wasn’t swayed, but he did allow Corbin to convince him to appoint General Daniel Butterfield assistant treasurer of the United States. Part of Butterfield’s job was to handle government gold sales on Wall Street. In return for a piece of the action, Butterfield agreed to inform Gould and Fisk when the government was ready to sell gold.

Pandemonium in the New York Gold Room

Grant eventually became suspicious of his brother-in-law’s sudden interest in the gold market, and when he found a letter between his wife and sister regarding the same matter, he recognized the scheme for what it was. Sensing the danger, Gould, Fisk, and Corbin began buying up as much gold as they could on September 20. The price rose to as high as $162 per ounce, a price that would not be reached again for 100 years. However, on September 24, Grant ordered the immediate sale of $4,000,000 worth of government gold. Within minutes, prices plummeted. Investors scrambled. Panic set in. Many investors had taken out loans to buy their gold and when the price dropped, they were ruined, Abel Corbin among them.

Gould escaped relatively unscathed, by selling his gold before the market began to fall. Daniel Butterfield was removed from his post after a congressional hearing. Bad luck and continued scheming caught up to Fisk a few years later. In 1872, fellow financier, Edward Stokes, shot him dead after arguments over money and the affections of a show girl named Josie Mansfield. Has all the makings of a western showdown, doesn’t it?

  • So, are you a Black Friday shopper, or do you prefer to hide away at home and avoid the crowds?


A Filly Friend

Oh, and don’t forget about the contest we’re running. Become a Filly Friend by subscribing to the Petticoats & Pistols newsletter (see sidebar at the top right), and you are eligible for some wonderful prize packages. Autographed books, western jewelry and frames, Amazon gift cards ($100 and $30). All kinds of fun stuff.

Save Your Pennies

newsletter_headerjpg - 2Piggy BankThis weekend, my two boys decided they wanted the spend the money they”d been saving on a ping pong table. They scraped together their birthday/Christmas money, their allowance and chore money, and even dumped their piggy banks. Their dad paid for the table with our credit card then the kids paid us back. So here I go to the bank with a ziplock full of $25 in dimes, nickles, and pennies. Carrying all that heavy change around made me think about what currency was like in the 19th century.  Early on, bank notes were not trusted because if the bank failed, your note became worthless. Therefore people tended to prefer carrying their money around in coin form. But what form did those coins take?

I did a little digging at some of my favorite currency research sites*, and I thought I”d share some of what I found. Today we”ll look just at cents. A penny may not go far in our current economy, but back in the 1800″s they sometimes even made change for them–with half cents.

Half Cents

Half Cents

Half cent coins were made of pure copper and were nearly the size of a modern-day quarter. These were popular at the beginning of the 19th century, but as inflation drove prices upward, the need for such a coin dwindled. It was completely abandoned prior to the Civil War.

Large Cents

Large Cents

As you can see, the design on the large cents were nearly identical to that of the half cents. Yet, like the name implies, the large cents were made with twice as much copper as the half cents and were larger and heavier. When copper prices rose throughout the 1800″s, the large cents became too expensive to continue making, so in 1857 they started making small cents, the pennies we are familiar with today.

Small Cents

Small Cents

The Flying Eagle cent was introduced in 1856 and was minted for just 3 years before being replaced with the Indian Head cent. In 1909, the Lincoln cent became America”s first circulating coin to portray a president. It originally featured the “Wheat Ears” reverse design, which was changed to the Lincoln Memorial in 1959.

And did you know there there were also 2 cent and 3 cent coins? The 1864 Coin Act called for a 2¢ copper coin. This Civil War-era coin was America’s first and only 2¢ piece. It was also the first coin to carry the inscription IN GOD WE TRUST. The 2¢ coin was minted from 1864-1873.

2 and 3 cents

The 3¢ coin was forged from silver and many hoarded it during the war. When a shortage occurred, the government opted to change the composition to copper nickel. These new coins became known as 3¢ nickles because of the material used to strike them.

So what is a penny worth to you? Do you have a lucky penny? If you saw a penny on the ground, would you stop to pick it up? Did you ever save up your coins as a child to buy something special? What was it?


*Information gathered from the Littleton Coin Company .