Photostat machine

The Photostat machine, or Photostat, was an early projection photocopier created in the 1900s by the Photostat Corporation; "Photostat" - which was originally a trademark of the company - is also used to refer to the similar machines produced by the Rectigraph Company.



The growth of business during the industrial revolution created the need for a more efficient means of transcription than hand copying. Carbon paper was first used in the early 19th century. By the late 1840s copying presses were used to copy outgoing correspondence. One by one, other methods appeared: among them were manifold writers (used by Mark Twain), copying baths, copying books and roller copiers. Among the most significant of them was the Blue process in the early 1870s, which was mainly used to make blueprints of architectural and engineering drawings. Stencil duplicators (more commonly known as "Mimeograph machines") surfaced in 1874, and the Cyclostyle in 1891. All were manual; most involved messy fluids and were accident-prone.

Rectigraph and Photostat machines

George C. Beidler of Oklahoma City founded the Rectigraph Company in 1906 or 1907, producing the first photographic copying machines; he later moved the company to Rochester, NY in 1909 to be closer to the Haloid Company, his main source of photographic paper and chemicals.

The Rectigraph Company was acquired by the Haloid Company in 1935. In 1948 Haloid purchased the rights to produce Chester Carlson's xerographic equipment and in 1958 the firm was reorganized to Haloid Xerox, Inc., which in 1961 was renamed Xerox Corporation. Haloid continued selling Rectigraph machines into the 1960s.

The Photostat machine was invented in Kansas City by Oscar Gregory in 1907, and the Photostat Corporation was incorporated in Rhode Island in 1911, later establishing an office and factory in Rochester in 1921. The company had a licensing and manufacturing relationship with Eastman Kodak. The Photostat Corporation was eventually absorbed by Itek in 1963.


Both Rectigraph and Photostat machines consisted of a large camera that photographed documents or papers and exposed an image directly onto rolls of sensitized photographic paper that were about long. A prism was placed in front of the lens to reverse the image. After a 10-second exposure, the paper was directed to developing and fixing baths, then either air- or machine-dried. The result was a negative print, which took about 2 minutes in total to produce, which could in turn be photographed to make any number of positive prints.

The photographic prints produced by such machines are commonly referred to as "photostats". The verbs "Photostat," "photostatted," and "photostatting" refer to making copies on such a machine in the same way that the trademarked name "Xerox" was later used to refer to any copy made by means of electrostatic photocopying. People who operated these machines, as comedian Pat Paulsen did for a time, were known as photostat operators.

It was the expense and inconvenience of photostats that drove Chester Carlson to study electrophotography. In the mid-40s Carlson sold the rights to his invention - which became known as xerography - to the Haloid Company and photostatting soon sank into history.



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