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Parcel carriers were used in retail stores to send both goods and cash to an elevated desk where the goods could be inspected and wrapped while the cashier made change and receipted the payment. This allowed a double check on each sale so that any error in price, billing or measurement could be corrected. In the early 20th century, Lamsons were offering both Lamson-Barr (spread-wire propulsion) systems and Air-Line (two-wire cord propulsion) systems. Both offered the same size baskets:6 x 18 inches, 12 x 20 inches, 8 x 20 inches, 14 x 20 inches, 10 x 20 inches, 10 x 24 inches (suit basket) and 16 x 17 inches (millinery basket). All were 6 inches deep inside. They were carefully finished smooth so as not to damage the finest fabrics.
An advertisement in the Merchants Record and Show Window, July 1914, listed ten features to recommend the No. 9 Parcel Carrier:
- operating possibilities (on slightly graded lines)
- oilless bearings
- no obstructions
- speedy operation
- friction stop
- location of stations (special anchorage gave great flexibility)
- low maintenance
- safety devices
- efficient service
It could carry loads up to 20 pounds over lines up to 200 feet in length.
There is a full account of the operation of parcel carriers at Stedman & Co., Jackson Miss. I have not seen parcel carrier systems used in the UK but one is to be displayed at Didcot Railway Museum.
Lamson also offered the "Majestic" gravity-operated parcel carrier. It was said to have stood the test of time better than any other type of parcel carrier.
Alex Joyce describes it like this: "There is a wire woven basket approx 20" long by 14" wide by 8" deep. The basket has a place on which to attach a small leather money/bill of sale cup."
The carriage bears the name "Air-Line".
"The basket is pulled up to the trolley by a woven cotton rope ... When the basket reaches the trolley, it attaches by four little fingers that twist into a bracket. When all is secured (all automatic), one gives a good strong twitch/pull on the same rope just used and the basket and trolley (cast and polished aluminium .. with two 4" diameter wheels ..) are slung up the wire to the central cashier and wrapping desk. While the change is being made, another clerk would wrap the goods."
A basket system features prominently in the film Butcher boy
A sole leather telescope cash box with a spring-steel clasp holder was supplied with every basket but a flat one-piece purse could be provided instead.
There is an excellent video from "Willy the Weeper" demonstrating an Air-Line parcel carrier system in operation on YouTube. For another illustration see NEGAUNEE, Mich. in Locations.
The Barr (later Lamson-Barr) system used a spread-wire system of propulsion like the Barr cash carrier. A slight downward pull on the sending cord spreads the track wires behid the car wheels and propels the car to the other end of the line. Lowering the basket is accomplished by a slight pull on the outer cord. A downward pull releases the catch and permits the basket to drop to a point within reach of the operator. When not in use the basket is usually hoisted to the wires where it remains until wanted.
The Lamson-Barr Parcel Carrier
The sales station. Here it was necessary to be able to lower the basket and detach it from the car.