BF Cummins Company Check Canceler – 1892
Throwback Thursday takes us to the year 1892 and the BF Cummins Company Check Canceler, Serial #15. This machine was used to perforate the word “cancelled” into checks or various other documents that required cancellation. This Cummins Check Canceler was advertised to have the capacity to cancel up to “ten checks at a time with each stroke.”
The BF Cummins Perforator Company was established in 1887 and manufactured a large number of hand perforating machines. Benjamin Franklin Cummins, a practicing Chicago Attorney was the President and founder of the company which was based out of Chicago and New York. The Cummins Company is still in existence, although it now part of a partnership called the Cummins Allison Corporation. Cummins Allison focuses on currency counters, sorting machines, scanners check-deposits and ATM machines. While technology has certainly progressed, Cummins Allison’s mission to process checks and currency remains unchanged.
The use of this machine was fairly simple. An operator inserted the check or paper document into the mouth of the perforator, and applied pressure on the lever. The result was a series of perforated holes which spelled out the word “cancelled” through the check or paper. These machines were very heavy, which was certainly an advantage. If used on a desk, or solid surface, the weight of the Cummins Check Canceler, in addition to the rubber edge of the base would prevent it from sliding or shifting position during operation.
On the back of the BF Cummins Company Check Canceler base is a brass plaque which displays the manufacturer’s information in addition to the serial number. On the front of the base exists a removable waste box which functions to collect scrap from each perforation. This tray reads “Empty waste box often.”
This BF Cummins Company Check Canceler is still in excellent working condition. The perforation is still complete and crisp, which is generally a rarity with such machines. While relatively simple, the mechanics of check canceling machines tends to be a bit complex. With that in mind, the fact that this artifact operates with such precision at over 100 years old is astounding. In addition, the surface of the machine is in fair condition. Aside from small blemishes and dents concurrent with age, it is beautiful. The paint is original and crisp, and all lettering indicating serial numbers and manufacturer information is legible. The condition of this check canceler, both mechanically and aesthetically increases its value both monetarily and historically.
While we may assume crimes like fraud, check raising, and other such criminal activities are modern phenomena, people (and machines) have been fighting such crimes for centuries. In the 19th century when the Cummins Check Canceler was manufactured, it was common for miscreants to prevent the raising of monetary figures, alter the payment amount of checks, or change the payee. This type of crime was monitored, and often nullified by machines like the BF Cummins Company Check Canceler. Due to this fact, it is an important part of the United States history. Click on the photos to view the BF Cummins Company Check Canceler closer or stop in to The PAST Antiques Marketplace on Route 85 in Montville to learn more about this interesting device. Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday from The PAST!