Duplicating Polygraph

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Polygraph party, happening right here.

“Origins” of the polygraph

The polygraph emerged in the late 18th century as merely one of a score of instruments designed and patented for the mechanical reproduction of handwriting. It burgeoned from a newly emerging concern regarding the ephemerality of print, as well as the desire to compile information for the benefit of posterity. Unlike the typewriter, which rose to prominence because of the need for quickly reproducible business correspondence, the polygraph was part of an effort to preserve information via copy, rather than disseminate information via duplicate.

The most common techniques for approaching the problem of handwriting's singularity was to devise mechanisms that would: 1. copy over ink (the copying press, James Watt) 2. copy movement of the hand by using the hand itself as a motor (pantograph, polygraph)

origins in creating perspective drawings. James watt produced many (33-34)

1775 Charles Willson Peale devises a “painter's quadrant"

Peale, Hopkinson and Dearborn are all preoccupied with making machines based on the pantograph (35). All these tools were for making perspective drawings, miniatures, and landscapes. First recorded use of pantographic mechanism in the service of writing is Sir William Petty's 1648 (patent date) device that had two pens, but wasn't practicle. Cotteneuve produced a similar device in 1763 and presented it at the royal academy of sciences, and called it a “polygraphe” or “copiste habile” (38). cumbersome, never commercially produced.

Marc Isambard Brunel was an architect and civil engineer from France who escaped to the US then settled in England. He was first granted an American patent in 1799 for a “machine for writing with two pens” (it was produced by a dressing-case maker). Three months laters, Brunel patented it in England, where it enjoyed some popularity. This apparatus was imported in 1801 and advertised by Pierre Martin Stollenwek and Nephew (interesting that Bedini doesn't refer to this as a "polygraph") pgs 38

CHECK Patent

CHECK the Mercantile Advertiser, May 11, 1801 (New York)

4 years later, Brunel is challenged by a similar inventions by Philly inventor John Isaac Hawkins. Hawkins machine was in principle similar to Brunel's machine. Hawkins collaborated with Charles Willson Peale, Philly inventor and artist. Hawkins worked with a cabinetmaker (42) to produce a polygraph, which Peale was psyched about. Peale offered to prepare a preliminary patent application. At first uncertain about the originality of the invention, they finally determined that Hawkins invention differed significantly from Brunel's. (I feel like a Gitelman quote is appropriate somewhere here)

Peale wrote to James Madison, sec. Of state, and requested the patent. It was granted May 17, 1803 for the “Improvement in the pentagraph and parallel ruler”. Patent office burned in 1836. British patent offered Sept 24, 1803.

CHECK british patent (pg 47)

CHECK The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures, and Agriculture (1804)

Peale wrote to Jefferson and talked some smack on Brunel's machine. Hawkins made arrangements to move to england and passed the American patent rights to Peale. Agreed to pay a royalty of 10% to Hawkins for each polygraph sold. Upon getting to England, Hawkins made contact with Peale's 2 sons, Rubens and Rembrandt.

Note story about first 3 produced during a dry spell, causing the wood the swell.

Sold his first polygraph to Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Sept. 1803. Finished his first 10 Onct 3, 1803. Advertised in Poulson's American Daily Advertiser. 2 pen = $50 = 953.29 today. 3 pen= $60 = 1143.95 today.

The need to make the writing surface perfectly level instigated the production of another mechanism, the spirit level (55).


Thomas Jefferson and the Polygraph

On five months full tryal of the Polygraph with two pens, I can now conscientiously declare it a most precious invention. Its superiority over the copying press is so decided that I have entirely laid that aside; I only regret that it had not been invented 30 years sooner, as it would have enabled me to preserve copies of my letters during the war, which to me would have been a consoling possession.

- Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, August 19, 1804. Later republished as an endorsement in an advertisement for the Polygraph in Poulson’s Daily American Advertiser on December 6, 1804.