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Follow Your Passion

Thomas Edison did--and he left his mark on a variety of industries.

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Thomas Edison is often referred to as the father of the electrical industry, the music industry and the motion picture industry. But did you know that he could also lay rightful claim to being the father of the tattoo industry?

In 1876, Edison patented a device he called the electric pen. Its sharp end poked small holes into a stencil sheet as the user wrote out his or her text on the page. This stencil could then be used as a template through which ink was pushed to make multiple copies of the same document. Edison marketed the innovation to lawyers, insurance firms and anybody else whose business consisted of duplicating numerous documents. Edison's electric pen--and the accompanying duplication equipment--turned out to be the forerunner of those old mimeograph machines (remember that smell?) and, subsequently, our modern-day duplication industry.

In 1891, the tattoo pen was born when an inventor named Samuel O'Reilly took Edison's electric pen and patented a system that delivered ink directly to the end of the needle rather than having the ink applied later.

Excerpted from At Work With Thomas Edison: 10 Business Lessons From America's Greatest Innovator