Profile America: Setting The Bar

Sunday, June 26 — Whoever bought a pack of chewing gum at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio on this date 42 years ago was making history. It was the first purchase of an item to be scanned into a cash register by using the Universal Product Code — much better known as the bar code. Realizing the significance of the event, the buyer returned the item. The 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit is now on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., along with one of the early scanners.

The price-scanning concept actually dates from the early 1950s, employing a bull’s-eye type mark. But it proved cost prohibitive. Today, the bar code is part of everyday life for the $4.2 trillion worth of annual transactions in America’s nearly 1.1 million retail trade establishments, and the 14.7 million people who work in them.

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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