Edison’s contribution to fashion

Edison's 1877 model of the electric pen

Edison’s 1877 model of the electric pen

Edison inadvertently invented the device that would become the modern tattooing machine. In 1875 he invented an electric writing instrument consisting of a steel needle driven up and down the barrel of a pen. The device punched tiny holes into a stencil that could be used to print many copies of the same document. He received the patent for his Autographic Printing Pen on August 8 1876, but the device was cumbersome and not popular. Improvements were made to the invention in 1877 and sales somewhat improved. In 1891, Samuel O’Reilly modified Edison’s pen idea by introducing an ink filled needle to create an electric tattooing pen. Many improvements were made to the tattoo machine over the years, mostly with the intent to make the machine lighter and allow for better effects, such as shading, by being able to adjust the depth, power and speed of the needle.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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