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Kids, prepare for a shock. It used to be that when you needed a copy of something, you couldn’t just pop it in a Xerox machine. Before the advent of xerography in the 1960s, there actually was no way (short of full-scale printing methods or photographic duplication) to make a copy of an existing document.

However, if you were creating a document with the intention of making multiple copies of it, you had a few options other than letterpress. Mimeograph made high-quality, black-ink documents created by typing on a stencil; ditto machines, which anyone my age remembers well from school quizzes, had both distinctive purple ink and a delightful smell from the duplicating fluid.

In Albany in 1940, there were a number of full-service mimeographing firms. They also provided addressing services, which required that every address be typed onto an individual stencil, which was framed in cardboard and then run through a machine called an Addressograph. There were also mimeos and dittos in thousands of offices.

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