The Origin of the Paystub – A Brief History of the Evolution of Payroll

  • August 12, 2022
  • Blog

The etymological meaning of the word “payroll” is a simple one: the prefix, “pay” meaning currency and the suffix, “roll” meaning to whom the payment goes to. Although the meaning might be self-explanatory, the journey humans have experienced throughout the wheels of time regarding being rewarded, or paid, for work is not as straight forward.

Rewind ALL the Way to the Beginning

Positioned in what would be modern day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, ancient Mesopotamia ruled the Earth for thousands of years. It is credited as developing one of the very first written scripts. In fact, a “cuneiform,” or more easily described as a clay tablet that kept records of early forms of payments was discovered, and dates all the way back to 3100 BCE.

On that clay tablet is a detailed record of portions of beer that had been rationed to their workers. This is considered to be the first system of payroll as their work would be rewarded with trading goods—in this case, beer.

For many many centuries, this type of payroll system was used to pay their workers. Often provided them a small shelter of some kind, but paid them with goods such as: food, beer, wine, clothing, and tools.

But, as the world started to develop, so did payment methods.

Through the 18th to the 20th Century

Succeeding the 11th century, which pioneered the Commercial Revolution (focused on goods for trade in the European economy), the 18th century introduced the Industrial Revolution. With this change in work mentality came change with modes of payment. No longer will workers be paid in goods, for the monetary banking system evolved just as much as the manufacturing industry.

Commercial banking began to gain traction as the know-all, end-all for all things commerce as most individuals of any class could open an account. It allowed the commoner to manage their physical salaries easily as these accounts kept record of all deposits and withdrawals.

In the 20th century, the world began to see an exponential growth when it came to financial services. Credit became a common practice while also beginning to shift away from physical currency. Technology was largely being introduced into the financial world.

The Modern Day

Technology is what drives the world forward. From developing the first written scripts, to being able to direct deposit paychecks straight into a bank account, the history of payroll has not ceased to develop. One thing is definite, software is an integral part to the financial institution of our modern-day society.

The whole world of information can now be conveniently crammed into a 6” by 3” rectangular phone in your pocket—and innovation will only keep speeding up. Technology will keep revolutionizing dominant industries as time moves on.

Payroll is not an exception to the incremental innovation of technology. Intuitive software has made calculating paystubs a no-brainer. Experience our Paystub Generator to find out how payroll and check stubs can be simplified due to the ground-breaking fusion of payroll and software.