The patent for Edison's Electric Pen, entitled Improvement in Autographic Printing was filed on March 13, 1876. The Electric Pen was Edison's "first experimental work in document copying and multiple duplication" (Baldwin 69). The device was invented for the niche market of business men needing to multiple copies of legal documents. The pen, however, was more versatile than for just business purposes and was popular and sold well. Beginning at the bargain price of just 35 dollars the Edison Electric Pen was marketed for any use from personal letters, music, contracts, manifestos, and artistic drawings. The pen was first sold exclusively to the east coast but quickly exanded to the midwest and to British Columbia and England. Eventually, Edison sold the rights to the Western Electric company, but the rights and patent finally ended up in the hands A.B. Dick of Chicago who developed the next reduplication invention: the mimeograph.
How the Electric Pen Works
The patent by Edison, describes the writing of the pen as, "patterns for embroidery and for fresco painters... made of paper" (patent). By having a sharp needle at the end of a stylus that moves rapidly up and down, small perforations can be made into paper or wax paper to make stencils.To break it down, the pen consisted of a metal tube or stylus resembling a pen or writing device. At the end would be the needle connecting to wires inside the tube that connected to a small electromagnetic engine on the top of the stylus to power the movement of the needle. The engine was then then connected to a voltaic battery of two glass jars held up by a metal stand. The most favorable liquids used are bichromate of potash and sulphuric acid(patent). The connection between the pen and the battery can be disconnected by removing metal plates inside the jars to prevent consumption of materials when the pen is not in use (Wheeler).