What is a Bates Stamper?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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A Bates stamper is a device used to make identifying marks on business or legal documents. Early Bates stampers used a traditional rubber stamper, while modern versions are self-inking. Today, the concept of Bates stamps has been transformed to meet the needs of advanced technology, computers, and electronic documents.

The first Bates stamper was created during the late 19th century by the New Jersey-based Bates Manufacturing Company. Legal firms, doctors and businesses quickly adapted this new technology to easily and consistently mark and identify documents. Inventor Thomas Edison realized the potential of the Bates stamper and purchased the patent. Edison is credited with widespread marketing of this device, which made the Bates stamper a common part of everyday business. Since that time, the Bates stamp has become a staple in most legal offices.

One of the most common uses for the Bates stamper is to create a unique identifying number on each sheet of paper used by a firm. This gives the firm an easy and effective method of referencing various papers by number. Other versions of the Bates stamper can be used to mark the date or time, as well as page number or others identifying marks. Specialty versions can even be used to mark documents with company name, logo, or copyright information.


From the early days of standard rubber stamps, the Bates stamper has evolved to meet the needs of many users. Some feature a series of numbered dials, which allows the user to change the date or page number with each stamp. Others automatically change the number shown with each press of the stamp. Self-inking versions rotate to draw ink from a built-in ink well, eliminating the mess and inconvenience of a separate ink pad.

By the late 20th century, many businesses had switched from manual Bates stampers to electronic versions of this technology. Some software programs have built-in features to simulate the effect of a traditional Bates stamp. Other firms use special Bates stamper software to create the same type of identifying marks on each document before printing.

During the early 21st century, some firms began to replace traditional Bates stamper marks with a modern system known as a hash value. Hash values consist of computer-generated algorithms that create a unique identification number for each document automatically. The hash value represents a sort of digital fingerprint for each individual document or page, and can be created in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the company.


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