From 1865 to 1920 the American economy shifted decisively from an agricultural to an urban-industrial base. With the increased mechanization of production and growth of a consumer economy came a corresponding increase in the need for the collection, management, and analysis of information and numerical date. The growing number of office, financial, and retail workers had ever greater demands placed on them for handling information accurately and efficiently. This became the key to increasing labor productivity in the economy as a whole. American business responded to the demands for better technology to process information, and a host of companies emerged to manufacture and market such devices as typewriters, adding and calculating machines, and cash registers. But only the best-managed and most adept companies could survive the cut-throat competition of that "Gilded Age."
The photograph on this page is from the NCR exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.