Does October 22, 1938 Mean Anything to You?

October 22,1938 means something to you even if you don’t realize it. You see Sunday October 22, 2017, is the 79th anniversary of the day the first xerographic image was produced and Xerography began.  Without that special day the Xerox printer or multifunction device you use would probably not exist. It is amazing to think how far the xerographic technology has come in 79 years.  Back on October 22, 1938 Chester Carlson, a patent attorney and part-time inventor, made the first xerographic image.  The first image was a hand written note that simply read “10-22-38 ASTORIA” (see picture above). The copy is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution.

Business might still be making copies with carbon paper if Chester Carlson had not been laid off in 1933 from Bell Telephone Laboratories.  Carlson was unemployed so he returned to school and earned a law degree.  He then took a job in the patent department of an electronics firm in New York.  Mr. Carlson became frustrated with the tedious process of copying patent drawings by hand, so he began experimenting in a makeshift laboratory behind a beauty parlor in Astoria, Queens in New York City with using electrostatic attraction to adhere powder to plain paper.  In 1938 he successfully copied the date and location, “10-22-1938 ASTORIA” onto plain paper.

In 1942, Carlson received a patent and then in 1947 the Haloid Co. won commercial rights to xerography and became Xerox.  In 1959, Xerox sold the first automatic copier the Xerox 914 Copier and the rest, as they say, is history. If Carlson were still alive he might be surprised to learn his invention began an information revolution that has continued to this day, making information readily available and expanding the world’s total knowledge. According to Megatrends in Digital Printing Applications 8.5 trillion letter-size simplex pages are printed annually in North America on products fathered by Carlson’s invention. You can see the innovations that have evolved from the xerographic technology at the Xerox Innovation site. Read more about the history of Chester Carlson and Xerography or download the Story of Xerography.

“Today, we celebrate our history, but we’re not just looking back.  We’re celebrating the future and how Xerox will continue to simplify the way work gets done.” – – Ursala Burns, Chairwoman of Xerox and Former CEO

READER’S ASSIGNMENT – Your mission, if you choose to accept it and I hope you do, is to leave a comment on this post about how xerography has impacted your business or life.

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  1. Klaus Werner November 1, 2017 - Reply

    Hi, you may be interested to know that on the German radio station Deutschlandfunk (DLF) the anniversary of Chester Carlson’s patenting of Xerography was covered in their daily feature Kalenderblatt – calendar leaf. Only four minutes but I was nicely presented.

    • Cheryl Otstott November 2, 2017 - Reply

      Hi Klaus,
      Thanks for reading the blog. That is very cool that it was covered by a German radio station. Thanks for letting us know, I appreciate you taking the time.

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