Albert Dick, who founded the ABDick Company in 1883, invented the mimeograph stencil in 1884 based on an early design by Thomas Edison. Dick licensed several of Edison’s printing patents which covered an electric pen used for making the stencil and the flatbed duplicating process. Dick experimented with a file and waxed wrapping paper, and he invented his own duplicating process. In 1887 he coined the word “mimeograph” to describe this process.
The mimeograph, also referred to as a stencil duplicator, was a duplicating machine that used a stencil consisting of a coated fiber sheet through which ink was pressed. Within the same year, the company released their first commercial product, the Model “0” Flatbed duplicator. The invention initiated the era of modern printed communications; formerly, documents were reproduced by writing by hand.
The first of these primitive copiers was hand-cranked, and eventually ABDick introduced larger, more automated models. In 1918, the company established the “Ditto” trademark. ABDick’s mimeograph technology eventually lost out to the new copy methods pioneered by Haloid/Xerox. However, the company continued innovating and by the mid-1970s ABDick’s annual sales approached $300 million.
Albert Blake Dick was born in Illinois and received his education at the Galesburg Public School, in Galesburg Il. Dick worked for the Brown Implement Manufacturers and later for the Deere and Mansur Company and the Moline Lumber Company; in 1883 he organized the A.B. Dick Lumber and Manufacturing Co.