A huge 14 x 16 inch real photograph album from National Cash Register, circa 1895, is being auctioned on eBay. According to the listing, there are 66 9 x 7 inch real albumen photographs mounted two to a page and three 11 x 13 inch photos, all mounted on cardboard pages with printed titles. The images are of the finest quality in terms of focus, exposure, lighting, composition, and contrast.
Some of the same photos are the subject of a long article in the scholarly journal History of Photography, Vol 32, Issue 2, June 2008 pp 137-151 entitled, "Welfare Capitalism and Documentary Photography: NCR and the Visual Production of a Global Modern Factory". The authors found the photos in Harvard University's Social Museum Collection. But many of the photos in my album are more interesting than the photos in the article.
"I Googled National Cash Register History," says the seller, "and found fascinating articles about President Patterson's social welfare programs, many of which are photographed here. Patterson successfully monopolized the newly invented and very lucrative cash register, but was not a robber baron and spent vast sums on social welfare and betterment facilities for employees and their children. Also he apparently hired the best photographers in Dayton to document his new business model. There include photos of the NCR Dancing Class, The Boys Garden, Bible Class, Cooking Class serving meals to company officers, sewing clubs, Girls club, Kindergarten (great photos), Young Peoples Club, employee sports facilities, Boys Brigade going to camp, employees on bicycles, company doctor dressing wounds, employee prize and awards, young peoples dance, officers club, room with 700 glass magic lantern projection slides, etc. The photos are about half social welfare, half photos of factory and company operations. The factory photos include, President Patterson talking to employees, officers club and members, Admin Building, New Manufacturing building, Experimental Dept (4 photos), Annual employee prizes for best inventions, testing accuracy of cash registers, assembling department, patent Dept, Packing and shipping, boilers. press room, indicator dept, typewriting dept, patent department, mailing dept, art dept, etc. Also photos of the very impressive factory buildings and grounds."
The seller continues, "While the album has some condition issues, the majority of the photos are in good condition, not faded and with good contrast. I magnified some with a loupe and the detail is incredible--I spent several hours with a good magnifier and there is a lot to see in these sharply focused large photos. There is enough there for a documentary or coffee table book. I believe this is a very historic group of photos which may belong in a museum of photography or industrial relations. Charles Kettering, later General Motors engineering genius, and Thomas Watson, later head of IBM worked here at the time these photos were taken. There are a lot of placards similar to Watson's "Think" posters at IBM. This is the reason why I did not separate them and sell them individually, though some of the photos could bring high prices due to size, quality and subject matter. I could find no other copies of this obviously limited production custom photo album on bookfinder, or even a reference to it on Google."