Business - A Factor In Commercial Progress
( Originally Published 1912 )
In making up a list of the ten most important contributions to the commercial progress of the nineteenth century, it would meet with general approval if the list included the typewriter, the telephone and wireless telegraphy. Yet it would probably cause considerable surprise and discussion if the list included carbon paper, often called transfer paper. Carbon paper, at first thought, seems to be of minor importance, yet the more you think of it, the more its importance grows. The phonograph reproduces the voice, while carbon paper reproduces the written record—which is often more valuable than a library of law books. In fact, carbon paper has served a most useful and important purpose in furnishing the records which have made possible the organization, direction and control of a large part of modern business.
First Made in 1804
The first carbon paper was made in England in 1804. Like many other useful things its origin is said to have been accidental. It was probably first used commercially early in the century in connection with tissue paper, to manifold copies of quotations and price lists of English export merchants for sending to their agents in different parts of the world.
Wellington's War Dispatches
Carbon paper was used to some extent for army dispatches by Wellington and others in the war against Napoleon. The thin tissue or carbon copy of a military order could be more easily concealed by a courier passing through the enemy's country than could a sheet of ordinary writing paper. The carbon copy could be sewed in the courier's clothing or in the double sole of the boot, and thus, made more difficult to detect. This practice was often resorted to.
In fact, it is on record that some of the couriers, when caught, would swallow the carbon paper dispatches to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.
Press and Train Dispatches
During our Civil War, carbon paper was used for the copying of press dispatches and military orders. Then the railroads adopted it for the dispatching of trains.
To-day carbon paper is a necessity in the conduct of business. Many millions of individual transactions every day are recorded in duplicate or triplicate, through the use of carbon paper. The elimination of this simple article of our commercial life would throw into the greatest confusion the machinery of our business fabric, open the door for wholesale dishonesty and enormously reduce the efficiency of the great army of sales people, representatives, agents, branch managers and others interested in selling and buying.
By the use of carbon paper, the smallest retail store as well as the greatest National and International corporation can have a record of its every transaction.
The accurate record is just as necessary to one as to the other. In each country the business of a great corporation is usually divided into districts. Those districts are divided into stations. Each station is divided into individual units. It may have ware-houses throughout the world. It is absolutely necessary that such a corporation shall know at any time the exact condition of every warehouse, the exact condition of every station, and have an exact record of everything which its agents and representatives are doing.
Consequently it requires a daily report from every country, from every division, from every warehouse, from every station, and from every wagon or representative down to the smallest unit.
A Record of Everything
In addition, it must have a record at all times of its vast property, not the products it is selling, but the stables, horses, wagons, sleds, harnesses, automobiles, trucks, cars, tanks, stations, warehouses, and everything else with which it does its business.
Naturally it requires each factor in its entire business organization, from the very lowest and most insignificant to the very highest, to furnish a daily report by means of a duplicating or triplicating or manifold form. Each person or station or division or nation makes such a report, keeping a carbon copy of his or its part in each transaction reported.
In this way each element in the great organization has its own accurate record, while the central organization has a summarized record of its widely diversified and integral parts.
The above corporation methods are referred to merely to suggest how intricate is the business of every large concern.
The Underlying Principle
Let us state again the principle by which such vast interests are directed and controlled. The principle is that every individual shall make a record of all particulars of each transaction at the time when the transaction takes place.
The individual cannot be depended on to write up at the end of any period of time, a record of what he remembers of the transaction. Memory has virtually passed out of modern commerce. The record must be made as the transaction takes place. The carbon of that. record made at that time, while the transaction was taking place, is the identical record which will go to the local headquarters. That head-quarters makes up its report based on these itemized records of each transaction. The division headquarters makes up its report based on the records of the local headquarters. So the report of each higher organization, until the head office is reached, is based on the report of the division below it.
Record Starts with Sale
Hence you see that everything starts from the itemized "bill of sale" made out by the individual while he is transacting each item of the business. From this you can easily see that if the individual does not make a record at the time of the transaction none of the various subdivisions or even the head offices will have an accurate record.
Without an accurate record organization, concentration, the handling of great national and international business interests, is not possible.
On the other hand carbon paper is not an entity in itself. It is only a means, a vehicle which adapts itself to every form of business and every mode of handling business. It is the friend of the dealer or manufacturer or any other business man interested in the smallest detail or largest operation of business.