History Matters: Photocopiers
Innovations and trends that shaped your ancestors' lives.
Copy That

The next time you photocopy a record for your family tree files, pause and say a little thank-you to the unknown inventor of the Rectigraph, which ushered in the modern document-copying era 100 years ago. And save some gratitude for Chester F. Carlson: In 2008, we'll celebrate the 70th anniversary of his invention of xerography — making possible the Xerox copier.

Before these breakthroughs, our ancestors had no simple way to copy existing documents. Perhaps one of your 19th-century ancestors was employed as a copy clerk, copyist, scribe or "scrivener" — the humans, like Dickens' Bob Cratchit or Melville's Bartleby, who once did the work of copying machines.