Unveiling the Ingenious Invention: The Electric Pen

By: HowStuffWorks  | 
Electric Pen old photgraph
Thomas Edison's electric pen was a forerunner to today's electric tattoo machines. Samuel O'Reilly saw the potential of Edison's device and adapted it in 1891 to invent the first electric tattoo gun.
Wikipedia Commons

The electric pen, a groundbreaking invention by the legendary Thomas Edison, revolutionized the world of document duplication in the mid-1870s. This remarkable device, powered by an electric motor, allowed users to effortlessly create multiple copies of handwritten documents and drawings. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the captivating history, design, and impact of the electric pen. Join us as we explore the fascinating journey of this precursor to modern-day mimeographs and tattoo needles.


The Genesis of a Brilliant Idea

Thomas Edison, ever the visionary, recognized the growing demand for a fast and efficient method of document duplication. Observing the arduous and time-consuming process faced by merchants, lawyers, and insurance companies, he set out to create a solution that would simplify their workflow. Inspired by the perforating function of the printing telegraph, Edison and his associate, Charles Batchelor, embarked on a journey to develop the electric pen. They discovered that as the telegraph punctured the paper, a chemical solution left a mark underneath. Harnessing this unique property, Edison built the electric pen around the concept of creating a stencil through a series of minute perforations.


Design and Functionality

The electric pen, the centerpiece of the complete duplicating system, boasted a sleek and ergonomic design. Its cast-iron body, commonly adorned with black japanning and gold striping, exuded a sense of elegance and durability. The pen itself featured a motor mounted on top, connected to a pen-like shaft. Powered by a wet-cell battery, the motor drove a reciprocating needle, capable of making an astounding 50 punctures per second or 3,000 per minute. To create a stencil, users were instructed to write or draw naturally on a firm surface, allowing the needle to create a series of tiny perforations in the stencil material.

Once the stencil was prepared, it was placed in the flatbed duplicating press, accompanied by a blank sheet of paper. An inked roller was then passed over the stencil, forcing ink through its perforations and leaving a precise impression of the image on the paper. Edison boasted that a single stencil could yield over 5,000 copies, making the electric pen a game-changer in the realm of document duplication.


The Rise of the Electric Pen

The introduction of the electric pen into the market sparked significant interest among businesses and individuals alike. Merchants, lawyers, and insurance companies saw the potential for streamlining their operations and reducing the labor-intensive task of manual document replication. Edison wasted no time in establishing an office in New York to meet the growing demand. By the end of 1875, he had a network of agents operating along the East and West coasts, as well as in parts of the Midwest and Canada.

The electric pen's popularity continued to soar as Edison expanded its reach beyond the United States. The British rights were acquired, and agents were appointed in Cuba, South America, Europe, and Asia. However, as with any revolutionary invention, competition eventually emerged. Mechanical pens that did not require batteries entered the market, offering greater efficiency and ease of use. By 1880, the electric pen business began to decline, leading to its eventual obscurity.


Unleashing Your Creativity with DotsPen

While the electric pen may no longer be in widespread use today, its legacy lives on in the realm of artistic expression. Inspired by the concept of stippling, the DotsPen offers a modern twist on creating intricate dot-based artwork. This revolutionary drawing tool allows artists to effortlessly create unique works of art by rapidly moving the pen's tip up and down, forming a multitude of minuscule marks. Whether you are a seasoned stippling master or a casual doodler, the DotsPen opens up new possibilities for unleashing your creativity.

With its two-speed functionality, the DotsPen gives artists greater control and efficiency. The slower speed enables meticulous detail work, while the higher speed allows for covering larger areas with ease. The intuitive handling of the pen, coupled with its ergonomic design, ensures a comfortable drawing experience. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery powers the DotsPen, providing artists with hours of uninterrupted creativity. The LED indicator conveniently alerts users when it's time to recharge.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I create amazing drawings with the DotsPen?

A: The DotsPen is a tool that assists you in creating amazing drawings. The quality and content of the art are entirely up to your creative vision and skill.


Q: Is special training required to use the DotsPen?

A: The physical handling of the DotsPen is intuitive and requires no special training. However, mastering the intricate technique of stippling may take some practice and experimentation.

Q: How long does the battery charge last?

A: When fully charged, the DotsPen provides approximately 1 hour of continuous use before requiring a recharge.

Q: How do I refill the ink?

A: The DotsPen utilizes specially designed ink refill cartridges, which are available for purchase. The set includes three black ink cartridges, and additional refills in both black and blue ink can be obtained separately.



The electric pen, a testament to Thomas Edison's innovative spirit, revolutionized the world of document duplication in the 1870s. Its ingenious design and functionality paved the way for future advancements in the field. Although the electric pen eventually faded into obscurity, its impact on the world of duplicating technology and artistic expression cannot be overstated. Today, the spirit of innovation lives on in tools like the DotsPen, enabling artists to explore new realms of creativity. So grab your pen, unleash your imagination, and let your artistic journey begin!

This article was created using AI technology.