Who Invented the Copy Machine?

By Ann Johnson

  • Overview

    Before copy machines, typists used carbon papers to make duplicate copies. The process was messy and the copies were inferior. Inventors created a machine that could easily copy documents. One of the first was invented by Thomas Edison. Later, copy machines were invented, finding new ways to create superior copies.
  • Thomas Edison

    One of the greatest inventors in history, Thomas Edison (1847-1931) is most remembered for his invention of the electric light and designing one of the original electric power stations, which brought electricity to millions. He also invented the original copy machine. Later known as a mimeograph machine (patented by Edison in 1887), it was a stencil devise that forced ink through the holes in the stencils to duplicate or copy the original document. One disadvantage of the mimeograph was that the original had to be specially created as a mimeograph stencil or master.
  • Photostat

    In 1907, the Photostat copy machine was invented by Oscar Gregory in Kansas City. It was too large and expensive to be utilized by the average business office. The machine was difficult to use and required a trained operator. The Photostat was a projection copier that consisted of a large camera that put the images on rolls of photographic paper, which were approximately 350 feet in length. Another similar copy machine was George Beidler's Rectigraph machine, which was produced around the same time as the Photostat.


  • Verifax

    In the 1940s, offices used copy machines like the Kodak Verifax, a photo-direct copy machine. It produced damp, slow, inferior copies that tended to fade over time. Other brands included A-PeCo, Ozalid and 3M. Unlike the Photostat, these were smaller machines that could be used in the average business office.
  • Thermo-Fax

    The Thermo-Fax copier was invented by Dr. Carl Miller and produced by 3M in 1950. Unlike the Photostat and Rectigraph that required chemicals, heat was used to create the copies in a Thermo-Fax machine, and required the use of special heat-sensitive paper. In the Thermo-fax, the special paper was placed over the original document and exposed to infrared energy. The image portion absorbed the energy and generated heat, which caused the copy paper to darken, thus creating a copy. The paper was expensive, the copies were of poor quality and the images faded quickly.
  • Xerox

    Chester Carlton invented the xerographic copier, also known as the photocopier. He attempted to sell his invention to various companies, such as IBM, yet was turned away. His invention finally caught the interest of the Haloid Company, a manufacturer of photocopy and photography paper founded in 1906. The first commercial model of the Xerox copier was introduced in 1960. Carlton's invention was the first automatic copy machine that made dry copies on ordinary paper. Haloid Company changed its name to Xerox. Today, the word Xerox is synonymous with photocopy.
  • © High Speed Ventures 2011