Old-Time Cash Registers

These look so quaint now, but they work the same as the ones when I was a kid.  This was made about 1900.

This one has two drawers.
This one has two drawers.

Mechanical, not electronic. Push a button with the price and a metal tab comes up.

Tabs with prices:  65 cents, 85 cents.
Tabs with prices: 65 cents, 85 cents.

Looking at these now, I realize the cash registers I remember from the 1960s and 1970s were low-tech compared to today. They were like the one above but they could print a receipt. But they were plain, not with decorated brass sides, back and top.  No marble.

The cash register was first invented in the early 1880s to keep employees from stealing.  It kept track of the money. That’s also why there was the ding of a bell when the drawer rolled open, so the manager or owner would know the cash was exposed to the cashier or customer.

Cash Register in Hoofprints of the Past Museum in Kaycee, WY (800x600)

I remember the No Sale key and tab. When someone came in to the store and asked for change without buying anything, the cashier obliged by pressing No Sale, which made the cash drawer pop out.  This register has a wide, red tab that says Sale Not Yet Recorded.

I took these photos at  Hoofprints of the Past Museum in Kaycee, Wyoming. Talk about the real West.

Jews in 1850 Los Angeles

In 1848, nothern Mexico ceded California to the US, and gold was discovered.  Suddenly the town of Los Angeles, located among rancheros, became a stop for gold prospectors heading north from their homes in Mexico, Central and South America.  Hearing of the exorbitant prices near the gold fields, some of these men bought their mining supplies and clothing as they passed through Los Angeles.  This was an opportunity for merchants, and competition was fiercer in San Francisco, the gateway to the gold country, than in relatively sleepy Los Angeles.

The Jews listed in Los Angeles’ first US Census outfitted these gold-seekers and the increasing number of Angelenos.  The 1850 census document, donated to a museum by Cecil B. De Mille, records 3,530 people in all of Los Angeles County, only eight of whom were Jewish.

A microcosm reflecting the settling of the American frontier, all of the Jewish residents were single men, and almost all were young.  There was a forty-year-old tailor, but all the others were merchants ranging in age from 19 to 28. These gentlemen lived behind their storefronts in the Bell’s Row block of Los Angeles.

They were born in Germany and Poland, and all had lived elsewhere in the United States, so they spoke their native languages and possibly other European languages, had learned English, and picked up Spanish in their stores, doing business with Spanish-speaking locals and gold seekers. Multi-lingualism was a key to success in early Los Angeles.


The two census pages listing these men were a small part of a wide-ranging exhibit, Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic, at the Autry National Center.  I was fortunate to have a tour with a docent offering more information than was on display — guided tours are a great way to see a museum exhibit. This exhibit has a companion book of the same title, published by the University of California Press.

A Log Cabin and Its Town

Sheridan, WY 014 (1280x960)

This log cabin practically grew into a town.  It was built in 1880 by George Mandel, in a green valley where Sheridan, Wyoming, now stands.  The logs are original and dovetail at the corners of the cabin.  It was larger than at present, about 18 feet by 36 feet, and had a wood floor.

Men squared off the logs with tools, and the marks still show.

To handle mail in those days, you applied to the government, and once you were approved, you rode to a justice of the peace who swore you in as postmaster or postmistress.  George Mandel did this, and because there was no town, he named the post office with his name.  Below, you can see the sign over the door.

Mandel Post Office Sign

John Loucks, a town founder, bought the cabin for $50 and was approved and duly sworn in as the new postmaster.  Mr. Loucks used a cracker box to hold the mail in this cabin and started selling goods alongside, making it the area’s first store.

The gray sod roof of the cabin. The roots of the grass bind the soil.
The gray sod roof of the cabin. The roots of the grass bind the soil.

He bought an old cabin that had been abandoned by Dutch Henry and hauled it to this one and attached it.  It became a kitchen for his wife, Annie, and they graciously allowed a teacher and children to use it as Sheridan’s first school.   Mr. and Mrs. Loucks hosted many social gatherings and an election — women cast ballots in the cabin in the early 1880s.  (Wyoming Territory granted women suffrage in 1869.)

Then this cabin was moved and added onto, and it later housed the first law “office,” inside the store.

The Mandel Cabin and Post Office is now in Whitney Commons Park, very close to its original site.  It is owned and maintained by The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Wyoming.  This group and the Wyoming Society deserve a pat on the back for preserving the cabin, giving tours, and printing brochures with the cabin’s story.

Idaho and the Key to the Cosmos

Its bordello museum had just closed for the winter, so I almost did not stop in Wallace.

The Wallace depot now houses a railroad museum.  The interstate behind it skirts the protected historic downtown.
The Wallace depot now houses a railroad museum. The interstate behind it skirts the protected historic downtown.

The Coeur d’Alene was the most productive silver-mining district in the United States.

Lake Coeur d'Alene has scenic bike trails and an annual IRONMAN Triathlon.
Lake Coeur d’Alene has scenic bike trails and an annual IRONMAN Triathlon.

Every downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wallace, Idaho

I was hoping the Oasis Bordello Museum would be open, despite what I had read.  I’m writing about the red-light district in another mining town, Cripple Creek.

It was cold and windy, so I warmed up with a latte and friendly conversation with the coffeehouse owner.

I took a stroll, and was I in for a surprise.

The arrow points to a manhole cover.

Click here for the logic behind the mayor’s 2004 proclamation and to learn more about Wallace and the Coeur d’Alene area.