What is a Telautograph (Invented by Elisha Gray)?

Last Update: August 9th, 2021

The telautograph was a precursor to the fax machine. It worked by transmitting electrical impulses recorded and sent to a receiving with a pen attached.

Invented by Elisha Gray in 1888, the patent claimed that it would allow the transmission of one person’s handwriting to a distant point over a two-wire circuit.

Horizontal and vertical bars controlled the stylus. The device was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (Archived Link).

The telautograph was later modified to the telewriter by Foster Ritchie, an invention that allowed for the same function but also talk over the telephone at the same time.

The telautograph was very popular for transmitting signatures over distance, with a focus on use by banks, hospitals, and other paperwork heavy industries.

Telautograph Corporation changed its name several times and was acquired by Arden/Mayfair in 1971. Arden/Mayfair was later acquired in 1993 by Danka Industries and renamed it Danka/ Omnifax, and in 1999 the division was purchased by Xerox and called the Omnifax division since absorbed into the larger corporation.

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