Thomas Edison received US patent 180,857 for “Autographic Printing” on August 8, 1876.
The patent covered the electric pen, used for making the stencil, and the flatbed duplicating press. In 1880 Edison obtained a further patent, US 224,665: “Method of Preparing Autographic Stencils for Printing,” which covered the making of stencils using a file plate, a grooved metal plate on which the stencil was placed which perforated the stencil when written on with a blunt metal stylus.
The word “mimeograph” was first used by Albert Blake Dick when he licensed Edison’s patents in 1887.
Dick received Trademark Registration no. 0356815 for the term “Mimeograph” in the US Patent Office. It is currently listed as a dead entry, but shows the A.B. Dick Company of Chicago as the owner of the name.
Over time, the term became generic and is now an example of a genericized trademark. (“Roneograph,” also “Roneo machine,” was another trademark used for mimeograph machines, the name being a contraction of Rotary Neostyle.)
Others who worked concurrently on the development of stencil duplicating were Eugenio de Zaccato and David Gestetner, both in Britain.
In Britain the machines were most often referred to as “duplicators,” though the predominance of Gestetner and Roneo in the UK market meant that some people referred to the machine by one of those two manufacturers’ names.
In 1891, Gestetner patented his Automatic Cyclostyle. This was one of the first rotary machines that retained the flatbed, which passed back and forth under inked rollers.
This invention provided for more automated, faster reproductions since the pages were produced and moved by rollers instead of pressing one single sheet at a time.
By 1900, two primary types of mimeographs had come into use: a single-drum machine and a dual-drum machine. The single-drum machine used a single drum for ink transfer to the stencil, and the dual-drum machine used two drums and silk-screens to transfer the ink to the stencils.
The single drum (example Roneo) machine could be easily used for multi-color work by changing the drum – each of which contained ink of a different color.
This was spot color for mastheads. Colors could not be mixed.
The mimeograph became popular because it was much cheaper than traditional print – there was neither typesetting nor skilled labor involved.
One individual with a typewriter and the necessary equipment became his own printing factory, allowing for greater circulation of printed material.