Ditto Machines were America’s entry in the history of spirit duplicators. Spirit duplicators also went by such names as Gestetner, Rexograph , Banda, Roneo, and Fordigraph in different locales. Ditto was by far the most popular name in use during the 1950s and 1960s.
Wilhelm Ritzerfeld, who invented the spirit duplicator process, founded The Ditto Corporation in 1921 in Chicago, Illinois. The machine uses a special type of ink that is dissolved by alcohol. Users type or draw on a special master sheet, which goes into the Ditto Machine. The alcohol dissolves the ink in the master sheet, and the image transfers to the copy paper. Larger print jobs, such as for newspapers, used offset printing.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Ditto machines produced school materials, church bulletins, and other low-cost documents. The Ditto smell was sure to trigger anxiety attacks in many students of the day as they walked into the classroom for a quiz.
Ditto vs. Mimeograph
Mimeographs were a frequent alternative to the Ditto Machine in the 1950s. A mimeograph machine used a stencil to create copies of a document. The stencil comes from typing or drawing on a special wax-coated paper. The typewriter or pen creates holes in the stencil, which allow ink to pass through when the stencil goes into the mimeograph machine. Mimeograph machines produced flyers, newsletters, and other small-run documents.
Ditto Machines could produce 100 to 200 documents in a single run. The mimeograph could only produce 20 to 50. Also, the Ditto Machine was generally easier to use than the mimeograph. Ditto did not require a stencil, which made it simpler to prepare the master sheet. It also used a continuous-feed process, which meant that it could make copies continuously without stopping. This made the Ditto Machine faster and more efficient than the mimeograph machine.
The mimeograph machine’s reliance on creating a stencil could take time, especially if the stencil was made by hand. The mimeograph machine also used a step-and-repeat process, which meant that it had to stop after each copy was made to insert a new piece of paper. This made the mimeograph machine slower and less efficient.
New Technology Takes Over
In 1962, Bell & Howell, a manufacturer of photographic and imaging equipment, bought the Ditto Corporation. Bell & Howell continued to manufacture Ditto Machines under the Ditto brand name until the 1980s, when photocopiers replaced them.
In 1986, Bell & Howell sold the Ditto Corporation to a group of investors led by David Rubenstein. The new owners renamed the company Ditto Business Products, and they continued to manufacture ditto machines and other office products. However, the company’s sales declined in the 1990s, and it filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
- Year Started: 1921
- Year Ended: 2000
- Origin Of Name: Descriptive
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Wilhelm Ritzerfeld
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Photocopiers
- Naics Code: 333248
- Location Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois USA