Automatic Bank Punch – 1884
This week’s Throwback Thursday sends us to 1884 when John Newton Williams invented an early piece of office automation; a check writing machine. This machine had a metal carousel design with wooden knobs that pressed down into slots numbered 1-10 to punch the corresponding number into a check. The machine was first produced for Williams by the Brady Company. In 1885, Williams began producing the check writer himself under the name Automatic Bank Punch Company in Brooklyn, New York.
The automatic bank punch was designed to prevent altercation on bank checks and paychecks. This was also referred to as an automatic check protector. The machine would punch out a hole in the shape of the number. It was automated in the sense that it would progress to the next position for punching on the check without manually needing to move the paper. Each check was done individually and this required a full time employee known as a check writer. Today, businesses use check writing software to complete this task. Research suggests that more than 24 billion checks are now written each year.
In 1899, over 22,000 automated bank punches were in use. Williams’s automatic bank punch was known as “bullet proof”, a quality piece of equipment that was nearly indestructible and reliable, rarely needing repair. Advertised from 1884-1914, the U.S. Treasury Department Clerk stated that the Automatic Bank Punch had been found to serve the purpose better than any other machine on the market. A substantial amount of bank punches were purchased by the U.S. Government. The check writers were used to put a price on government checks in punch form and could be used to cancel checks by punching upside-down.
In 1892, the price for an automatic bank punch was $25, this was expensive for most of the public at the time. Most private banks owned only one machine. This makes the automatic bank punch a rare item. John Newton Williams went on to invent the Williams Typewriter in 1891.
The Gateway Museum at Nature’s Art Village features a John Newton Williams Automated Bank Punch on display in the Typing Machines Exhibit. The display features the early models of office equipment from many of the greatest inventors. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village also features many vintage and antique typewriters and office machines from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To see our full selection of antiques and vintage technology visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut.
Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!