Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Joseph Homer Tathwell, Sr. (1903-1997), 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 19, "There's a Way"

"There's a Way" is the theme for Week 19 of +Amy Johnson Crow and NoStoryTooSmall.com's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  I have an ancestor by marriage in my family tree that embraced the "There's a Way" approach to work and built better way to do common business tasks.  His research and development skills improved businesses' copying and payroll processes and brought greater efficiency to tasks that every company, as well as many non-corporate entities like schools and churches, needed to complete.

How I descend from Joseph Homer Tathwell's wife,
Catherine Lessie Wood Tathwell.  My father (living) and I 

would be listed below John Egbert Wood.
Photo courtesy of Steve Donlin, their grandson.

My paternal grand aunt's husband, Joseph Homer Tathwell (1903-1997), worked for a Chicago-based company named Ditto, Incorporated, that was a trailblazer in bringing copying machines into American offices.  According to the Early Office Museum website, Ditto sold gelatin duplicators - a.k.a., hectographs or jellygraphs - that could be used to make up to 100 copies.  The Early Office Museum site goes on to describe the process of using a hectograph in this way:  "When preparing the original, hard bond paper and a special kind of ink [containing aniline dyes] are used...The original is placed face down on the copying surface and smoothed with the palm of the hand or a roller. It is then lifted off, having left its impression on the gelatin. The blank sheets are placed one at a time on the gelatin surface and allowed to remain a few seconds until the imprint is made." The Ditto machine shown directly below was $200 (about $1,990 today). In 1925, other models ranged from $117 (about $1588 today) to $395 (about $5,361 today).1

Model E-41 made by the DITTO division of Bell & Howell, circa 1950s.
(Thank you to Mark, owner of the Early Office Museum, for
permission to use the information above from his website.)

During Mr. Tathwell's employment at Ditto, he conceptualized and documented new ways to improve hectograph-related business practices.  He applied for and received five United States patents for inventions between 1940 and 1966, and his inventions ushered in a more efficient process for making copies using these machines.

J. H. Tathwell, Sr.'s hectograph-related inventions included:
  • Apparatus for and Method of Duplicating - filed 25 June 1938, patented 05 November 1940.  Patent US2220300.
  • Hectograph Roll Cabinet - filed 19 May 1941, patented 09 March 1943, Patent US2313180.
  • Hectograph Blanket Conditioning Container - filed 19 May 1941, patented 01 June 1943, Patent US2320835.
  • Means for Maintaining Multiple Records - filed 21 March 1945, patented 17 May 1949, Patent US2470586.
  • Accounting Forms (a.k.a., "Pay Dollars") - filed 27 Jan 1964, patented 08 Feb 1966, Patent US3233918.

Joseph Homer Tathwell, Sr.'s ingenuity and drive to bring his innovative ideas to fruition personify the spirit of "There's a Way."

1“Antique Copying Machines.” Early Office Museumhttp://www.officemuseum.com/copy_machines.htm. Accessed 12 May 2015.

©Amy Wood Kelly, 2015 - I am happy to share my genealogical research and writing with others, as well as to help others with their research efforts.  However, please do not reprint this post in full or in part or use excerpts from this post without giving full credit to me, Amy Wood Kelly, as the researcher and author as well as providing the permalink to this post.  Thank you, in advance, for showing respect for my request and the work I put into creating this post.