The invention of carbon paper

7 October 2014

In 1806, the British inventor Ralph Wedgwood (cousin of the potter, Josiah Wedgwood) secured a patent today, for a machine which made the first documented use of carbon paper. This was a commodity which became an indispensable part of office life. Wedgwood’s ‘carbonated paper’ was impregnated on both sides and was intended – initially at least – to produce a single copy by placing it between two sheets of paper and writing with a metal stylus on the top sheet. Josiah Wedgwood II provided a loan of £200 to produce the invention and its success can be measured by his father Thomas’s estimate that in the first seven years, it had made £10,000 in profits.

Wedgwood was born in Burslem, Staffordshire. He was the eldest son of the potter,Thomas Wedgwood II (1734-1788) and his wife Elizabeth (née Taylor). He married three times and was widowed twice.

His first marriage was to Mary Yeomans in 1790 and they had two children, Mary and Ralph, but Mary died in 1795. He remarried Sarah Taylor, they had a son Samuel (1800-1863) but she died in 1807. In 1808, he married for a third time to Mary Anne Copeland and they had three children, Trianne, Maria and William. His third wife outlived him and died in 1867.

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