What am I talking about? A cash carrier, or sometimes called cash railway, was a system of pulleys and wires running close to the ceiling in a large store sending and receiving cash payments.
The small cylinders were able to go from one location to another by a complex system of pulleys and wires powered by gravity (from upper floors to lower floors) or a catapult (from the lower sales floors to the upper floors). I remember watching the basket come hurtling at high speed down from the cashiers office toward the saleman's counter wondering if it would crash. It would stop with a loud bang, but never spilled the change all over the floor.
This system was developed for several reasons. The main one was for security of the store's cash. Most, if not all, transactions in those days were with cash payments so the amount of cash in the till by the end of the day was a high value. The owner of the store prevented robberies by making it known that all cash was located in a secure location far away from the sales floor, far away from a would-be robber. Fewer people handled the cash in the department store, preventing embezzlement by the employees.
I think most kids, including me, who saw this system in the stores, wished they could pull the lever, sending the money holder upstairs. Very aptly stated online:
"When I was about 4, Harold Williams was the manager. One day he picked me up and let me pull that thing and send it on its way. It would be like a kid launching a rocket today. I never had such a thrill." Harold Belyau, 70. Abeline Reporter-News website
Another type of system for carrying cash was the pneumatic tube system, which was similar, but used round pipes between the sales floor and the cashier room. The tubes were either filled or emptied of air, thus causing a vacuum sending the cash container up or down in the tubes.
The pneumatic tubes could also be used for practical jokes as seen in this online account:
"The pneumatic cash system was always good for a prank, especially in the old store where the office was in an open balcony. A feather from a feather duster could be carefully placed in the carrier so that when opened it would spring out at a startled cashier. The screech sometimes made customers forget what they were shopping for. It was also possible to create the same result by filling the canister with cigarette smoke. Deceased insects and spiders were also known to take the ride."Did you ever see these types of devices long ago?
Information from this article found on the website The Cash Railway Website