I had never heard of a rectigraph prior to this cover, but the city of Rochester, New York gave me a clue as to what it might be. This cover had a fine copy of the first issue of the blue 2½d ‘Kangaroo on a Map of Australia’ stamp which was issued on 27 January 1913, and ruling out the same stamp with the second watermark issued in July 1915. The roller cancel clearly showed that it was cancelled at SYDNEY/ 7/ 27 MR-10AM/ N.S.W/ 1915. The sender W.M. Field , 398 Park Rd., Sydney has not been identified and the reverse was not seen (Figure 1).
The growth of business in the early 1900s created the need for a more efficient means of transcription than hand copying. Carbon paper was first used in the early 1800s and by the late 1840s copying presses were used to copy outgoing correspondence. One by one, other methods appeared, among them were manifold writers (used by Mark Twain), copying baths, copying books and roller copiers. One of the most significant was the Blue process in the 1870s, which was mainly used to make blueprints of architectural and engineering drawings. Stencil duplicators (mimeograph machines) were produced in 1874, and the Cyclostyle in 1891. All were manual, most involved messy fluids and were prone to accidents.
George C. Beidler of Oklahoma City founded the Rectigraph Company in 1906 or 1907, producing the first photographic copying machines, and he moved the company to Rochester NY in 1909 to be closer to the Haloid Company his main source of photographic paper and chemicals. The Rectigraph Company was acquired by the Haloid Company in 1935 and in 1948 Haloid purchased the rights to produce Carlson’s xerographic equipment. In 1958 the firm was reorganized to Haloid Xerox Inc., which in 1961 was renamed Xerox Corporation. Haloid continued selling Retigraph machines into the 1960s. A picture of the Rectigraph with a copy board made by the Rectigraph Company in Rochester N.Y. is seen in Figure 2.
The Rectigraph’s main competition was from the Photostat Corp. (an affiliate of Eastman Kodak) which during 1907-11, also combined a large camera and a developing machine and used sensitized paper. The Rectigraph’s first print taken from the original was a ‘black’ print and a white ‘positive’ print of the original was made by re-photographing the black print. A 1914 Rectigraph advertisement stated that the U.S. government had been using Rectigraphs for four years and that the machines were also being used by insurance companies as well as abstract and title companies.. Rectigraph machines were sold for $500 to $850 in the early 1900s.
The Rectigraph was one of the more popular machines in the early half of the last century that could photograph documents to make accurate copies. The photographic process, while technically pretty good, was obviously difficult and costly, and certainly not the push-button solution to copying that was needed. The Haloid company, sellers of the Rectigraph, would soon expand from their photographic roots to become the Xerox Corporation. This 1943 Haloid advertisement shows a more modern design for the Rectigraph (Figure 3).