Advert for the Edison Mimeograph, reverse side
In 1876, the American entrepreneur and inventor Thomas Edison was issued a US patent for "Autographic Printing". This was the first duplicating system which could be used by the average office worker without requiring special knowledge, and included several components. A battery-powered electric pen perforated tiny holes in paper as it wrote or drew, creating a stencil. The stencil was then mounted in a printing frame and lowered into contact with a sheet of blank paper. A specially prepared ink was then forced through the stencil with a roller, making a copy of the original. Over the next few years Edison was granted further patents for stencil pens and other methods of cutting stencils, but these were never put into production.
In 1887 AB Dick of Chicago was issued a patent for a duplicating apparatus, but found that he needed to license one of Edison's patents, which covered the stencil-making process Dick had used. As by that time Edison's own system was producing little revenue, Edison was happy to co-operate. Dick then coined the name "Mimeograph" for his stencil duplicating system, from the Greek "mimos" (imitation) + "graphos" (writing).
Edison himself had never used the word, nor did he have any direct involvement in Dick's business, but as part of the licence agreement Dick was able to use Edison's name as a valuable marketing device, and sold his equipment as "Edison's Mimeograph" for many years.
Text by Bill Burns: electricpen.org website