The concept of transferring ink onto two separate sheets of paper in order to make two copies was initiated by two men, who were both trying to help blind people write letters, without making a mess with pen and ink.
In 1806, Englishman Ralph Wedgewood invented his “stylograph” machine and with it the first carbon paper, which was a thin piece of paper coated with wax and ink. This was placed between two sheets with horizontal metal wires placed on the top sheet to act as a guide for the blind users.
Two years later an Italian by the name of Pellegrino Turri invented a typewriting machine which also used similar black carbon paper. This was to help his wife, Mrs Turri, to write letters after becoming blind through illness. This invention helped pave the way for the development of typewriters much later on in the century.
Both men had a hand in creating carbon paper and the concept of transferring words from one sheet of paper to another. They also provided an alternative method of writing from a traditional quill pen, something which had been in used since the 7th Century, but could be messy and expensive.
Wedgewood developed his idea further by making it possible to transfer information from one sheet to another for businesses and private documents. A new system was developed where the original writing on the first sheet was written with a metal stylus. The pressure of this went through the carbon paper and created an imprint of the writing on the reverse side of the sheet underneath. A company was set up to market this new invention to writers and businesses. Although many appreciated Wedgewood’s work and the concept of the idea, businessmen still wanted their documents to be written in the traditional pen and ink due to concerns about forgery. Furthermore a carbon copy of a document had no legal standing in court.
In 1823 the Americans entered the fray. Cyrus Dakin was making similar carbon paper to Wedgewood and selling it to the Associated Press. Forty eight years one of its papers was covering a balloon ascent by businessman, Lebbeus Rogers, which was a PR stunt. At the paper’s offices, Rogers noticed the use of Dakin’s carbon paper. He liked the idea so much that he set up his own company; LH Rogers & co to mass produce carbon paper to be used in a new invention linked to this process- the typewriter.
Carbon paper was also making strides in the corporate world too. The transfer of information to make two or three copies of a document was starting to be used by businesses and by the first decade of the 20th Century was becoming commonplace. It was not until 1953 that NCR paper (no carbon required) was invented by two chemists at the National Cash Register, Lowell Schleicher and Barry Green. This process got rid of the carbon paper, which was inserted between the two sheets and created a system where ink was released from tiny bubbles inside its texture to be released when pressure is applied by a pen. This system, plus advances in photocopying and computer technology throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, led to a rapid decline in the carbon paper system.
Nowadays NCR pads, books and sets can be found in almost all offices across the world and are used in numerous business situations to enable both vendors and customers to keep signed copies of documents.
Schleicher and Green’s invention of NCR paper in 1953 revolutionised copying technology and is still in widespread use to this day. How does NCR paper work? The process is very simple.Insert diagram similar to this one on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonless_copy_paper#/media/File:Carbonless_copy_paper-en.svg
On the front of each sheet of paper, except for the top one is a layer of reactive clay. On the back of each sheet of paper, except the bottom one are tiny particles of ink. When pressure is applied to the top sheet with a pen, the ink and clay are squeezed together at the points where this force is exerted, creating an outline on the top sheet of the paper below. Show an image of a filled in form in NCR.