Is this a fax machine from 1927?


it’s obviously a staged phone because he’s reading it upside down …

Msg for Comdr St. Clair When may we expect Seattle to transmit test pictures.
It appears to me the usefulness of further transmitting by us is questionable
and unless you can send, tests may as well be suspended. Bruce.

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A young J. Edgar Hoover examines the output from his first automated wiretap.

This technology was invented in the 2nd decade of the 20th century. It’s not so different from the ancient Unifax machine I tended at a newspaper in the 1970s. It used an electrified spiral wire wrapped around a spinning drum that trapped the paper against a straight metal blade as it scrolled by. Magic happened. Either the electricity or the solution on the paper dissolved the blade and it had to be changed all the time.

Fax machines are, in principle, much older than that. As usual, Tim Hunkin explains everything:

(Skip to 5:25 for an example from the 1800’s.)


According to WIkipedia the (mechanical) fax machine goes back to 1843. That’s a real surprise to me.

Also must-visit

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Is it just me or does that fellow look like a young Chester Carlson?

Caption: Good news, everyone! I just discovered I inherited a small fortune from the Prince of Nigeria, and found away to increase my penis size!


Man: Someone has appeared to put a picture of a cat at the bottom of this facsimile. Also a message: “I am in your machine, wasting your ink. Sincerely, A. Cat.” How peculiar! This could catch on.

There’s a resemblance, but he was 21 in 1927 (and his hairline is different).

That makes this off topic, but, the science and engineering library at the University of Rochester is named after Carlson (presumably it was paid for by Xerox, which is headquartered in Rochester), and there’s a neat little exhibit about him with lots of photos and a reproduction of his famous first xerography experiment and first prototype xerox machine. I worked in the library as an undergrad there and looked at everything in the exhibit dozens of times (to waste time).

Anyway - if you look at the high-res photo at shorpy - - the message on the paper appears to exist on the glass cylinder in the back as well. Wonder how it works.

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this is a bélinograph


Some people think that a fax machine works by sending little strips of paper through the tubes. But that’s ridiculous. Only the ink goes through the tubes.

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