CAWS Ink, New York

The Caws Ink brand dates back to the late 1870’s and a man named Alvah S. French, who was listed in the 1878 Philadelphia city directory at 302 Arch Street with the occupation “ink.” As early as 1877 he was manufacturing and distributing ink under the Caws’s name as evidenced by an advertisement that appeared in two December editions of Davenport, Iowa’s Morning Democrat. The advertisement reads:


Six Qualities never Before Combined: 1. It writes black instantly. 2. Does not fade. 3. Flows freely.  4. Does not thicken. 5. Does not mould. 6. Does not corrode metal pens. ALVAH S. FRENCH, Manufacturer, 302 Arch St., Philad’a. Sold by stationers everywhere.

Within a year of publishing that ad French was located in New York City  where, on November 25, 1878, he submitted an application to patent the Caw’s Ink label under the firm name of French & Gardner. It would be four years later before the label was fully registered and the announcement included in the November 21, 1882 edition of the “Official Patent Gazette; No. 2819.

Around the same time  that French began selling his ink in Philadelphia, a Canadian named Duncan MacKinnon was introducing his recently invented pen to the market. According to a story in the March 18, 1876 edition of the Manitoba Free Press:

THE MACKINNON PEN – One of the most convenient articles that has been brought before the notice of the public for some time is a writing pen on a new principle, the invention of Mr. D. Mackinnon, Stratford…It is just what has long been wanted by men whose business calls for much writing, and is certain to be appreciated. Mr MacKinnon has patented the pen in Canada, the United States and Great Britain, and we understand has been offered a large sum of money for an interest in his ingenious invention.

That “large sum of money” was apparently offered  by Francis Cashel Brown and Arthur Sutherland. Ultimately they bought out Mackinnon and by 1878 had established D. Mackinnon & Company and were manufacturing and selling “The MacKinnon Pen” at 21 Park Row in New York City.  One of their earliest newspaper advertisements appeared in the August 31, 1878 edition of the New York Times. Entitled “Writing Made Easy,” it reads in part:

The “MACKINNON PEN,” dispenses with the use of gold and steel pens, lead pencils and ink stands; is ready for use at all times and places and is the only perfect, self-feeding writing instrument in existence.

Every pen is pointed by a new process, with iridium, (diamond) and is warranted for three years…

Whether by chance or design, sometime in 1879 the Mackinnon Company and French’s business, now sans Gardner and called the French Manufacturing Company, were both located in lower Manhattan at the same address, 200 Broadway. Advertisements for both firms exhibiting that address were published directly adjacent to each other in the October 30, 1879  edition of the American Stationer suggesting  that by then they had established some type of business  relationship.

They had certainly formed an association by June 2, 1881 when this advertisement that appeared in the (Washington, D.C.) Critic announced that an agent for the Mackinnon Pen Co. was selling both the Mackinnon Fountain Pen and Caw’s Ink at factory prices. The agent was also selling a new Mackinnon item called the “Dashaway” Stub Pen.

Shortly after that advertisement ran, Brown and Sutherland sold the Mackinnon Pen Company to French. New York Superior Court Records (The MacKinnon Pen Co. v. The Fountain Ink Co.) tell the story.

The Mackinnon Pen Co. is a manufacturing corporation which makes and sells stylographic pens, under certain patents of the United States and other countries. Sutherland and Brown owned the entire capital stock of this company and its patents, and contracted, July 5, 1881, to sell the business and patents to French. French assigned portions of his contract to (George ) Carelton and ( Edmund ) Coffin and the contract was completed September 9, 1881.

This July 13, 1882 advertisement for the reorganized Mackinnon Pen Company listed Carelton, president, Coffin, vice president and French, general manager, secretary and treasurer.

Around the same time, Brown, no longer associated with Sutherland, established the Fountain Ink Company to manufacture and sell ink.

Brown has become the owner of almost all the stock of the Fountain Ink Co., which is a New York corporation, making and selling ink. He is the active manager of the company.

With French focused solely on pens, it was around this time that Brown apparently secured the rights to the Caw’s Ink trade mark. In fact it’s possible that he was the force behind the ultimate registration of the trademark in 1882, four years after the application was submitted by French & Gardner.

In 1882 both firms remained together on Broadway, their address now listed as 192 Broadway. That year, although he had a non-compete agreement with French, Brown began advertising a sales promotion for his ink that directly competed with the MacKinnon Pen business ultimately bringing about the lawsuit referenced above. The court records went on to explain the situation:

He (Brown) has undertaken to advertise and increase the sale of the ink by offering to give away a stylographic pen with each bottle, and is publicly representing that these pens, which do not cost forty cents, and are given away with a quart bottle of ink for $1, are equal to those which the Mackinnon Pen Co. sells at from $2 to $5.

Advertisements for the promotion were numerous in 1882, appearing primarily in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania newspapers. The following appeared in the Fall River (Mass) Daily Evening News.

In late December, 1882 Brown prevailed in the lawsuit but the decision was overturned on appeal the following year. Not surprisingly, in 1883 with the lawsuit still in the appeal process, the Fountain Ink Co. changed their address to 75  John Street.

That being said, it appears that the two firms maintained their business association for at least the early part of 1883 as evidenced  by this item that appeared in the American Stationer on February 15, 1883.

F. C. Brown, recently secretary of the MacKinnon Pen Company, but for some time with the Fountain Ink Company, has started on a trip with samples of the goods of both firms.

The future of the two firms however would turn out to be very different. According to an item in the May 15, 1883 edition of a publication called The American Bookseller, French left the MacKinnon Company around that time and went out on his own.

A.S. French formerly secretary and general manager of the Mackinnon Pen Company, has withdrawn from that company and taken quarters at 199 Broadway. Mr. French is now placing before the trade his new patent stylographic pen and pencil combination.

Less than a year later, in March, 1884, several newspapers reported that the Mackinnon Company was in receivership.

After separating from the Mackinnon Company French began operating as the A. S. French Company and continued to use the Mackinnon name as evidenced by this advertisement that appeared in the December 27, 1883 edition of Life Magazine.

The Life Magazine advertisements  continued regularly until April, 1884 when they ended abruptly. That same year all listings for French disappear from the New York City directories, suggesting the end of the French business in the U. S. (Its possible he continued in London for a while.)

On the other hand, Brown’s Fountain Ink Company and his Caw’s brand were apparently doing quite well. According to an item found in the July 5, 1883 edition of the American Stationer:

The Fountain Ink Company is reported to have sold ten thousand gallons of Caw’s black fluid ink last year.

If you still weren’t convinced, another item that appeared in the September 13, 1883 edition of the same publication served to reinforce the Fountain Ink Company’s success.

The manufacturers of Caw’s black fluid ink report that they never were in as good shape to fill orders promptly as now, and that they never had as many orders to fill. Since the organization of this business into a joint-stock company, with F. C. Brown as manager, which occurred less than three years ago, Caws Ink has been added to the stock of over twelve hundred stationers who have developed a large trade in their respective localities where the need was felt for a good black noncorrosive fluid ink.

In 1884 the Fountain Ink Company relocated to 62 Cliff Street where they were producing a copying ink along with their black fluid ink. Both were included in this list of  1886 prices found in Anderson & Crum’s  Catalogue of Stationary.

During this time they also developed and began marketing  a combined ink bottle and fountain pen filler. The unique bottle was highlighted in the September 18, 1884 edition of The American Bookseller.

Another want, which was becoming very pressing in consequence of the very general use of stylographic pens, is now supplied by the invention of a reliable and easy method of filling them. The old style of glass filler, imperfect as it is, has up to the present time supplied the only means known. Its place will now be filled by the “Combined Ink Bottle and Filler for Fountain Pens” handled by the Fountain Ink Company, 62 Cliff Street, New York. The accompanying cut represents a bottle of Caw’s Fountain Ink, with the filler attached.

The ink is pumped up through the neck of the bottle, and through a small tube that projects from the side of the stopper, into the pen; a bulb of rubber at the top, attached to the cork, supplying the motive power. Each bottle of Caw’s Ink is put up with one of the patent fillers attached, and is packed in a strong pasteboard box which can be carried with perfect safety in a trunk or valise.

The Fountain Ink Company remained in business on Cliff Street until the fall of 1886, when on November 5th and 6th, the following announcement appeared in newspapers across the country.

The Fountain Ink Company, 62 Cliff Street, manufacturers of “Caws Ink,” are advertised to be sold out by the sheriff. Liabilities about $30,000.

Likely the start of a planned reorganization, an announcement in the February 3, 1887 edition of the American Stationer made it clear that Brown was up and running under a new name, the Caws Ink and Pen Company. Having revived the “Dashaway” name, he was now selling pens as well as ink from a new location at 233 Broadway.

The Caw’s Ink and Pen Company has opened a store for the sale of its specialties at 233 Broadway, on the block next to the Astor House and just opposite the Post Office, where the trade are invited to call and where parties visiting the city will be ever welcome. For some months past the company has been giving special prominence to its new “Dashaway” fountain pen, which has been the subject of a number of complimentary notices in the daily papers…

Advertisements for the “Dashaway,” using their new Broadway address, appeared as early as December 19, 1886 in both the New York Times and New York Tribune.


What an excellent name “Dashaway” is for a pen, and how few pens there are with which you can dash away. We used to use a pencil until we recently had the good fortune to happen in at the headquarters of Caw’s Ink and Pen Company at 233 Broadway, opposite the Post Office. Since then we have been using Caws black writing fluid and Caw’s “Dashaway” pen.

The “Dashaway” was apparently their high end pen that according to advertisements got its name because it was:

The pen that you could dash away with over the paper without any of the annoyances of the pens in common use, and that will write for several consecutive hours – or for weeks if only used occasionally – without replenishing the ink.

The company also advertised a simpler, cheaper pen called the Caw’s “Stylographic” Pen.

In Caw’s Stylographic pen the writing is done with a circular point similar to a pencil. The stylographic pen carries ink in the holder the same as the fountain pen, and by many it is preferred to the ordinary split pen. It has a special device for cleaning and is a great favorite with bookkeepers and bankers for ruling purposes.

Both pens, along with their “Black Fluid Ink,” were highlighted in this March 15, 1890 advertisement found in a publication called “The Judge.”

A mainstay of Brown’s marketing strategy involved promotions (gimmicks?) similar to the one that got him in trouble with French. One that caught my eye required you to select the winner of the 1888 presidential election between Harrison and Cleveland prior to election day. An October 7, 1888 advertisement in the New York Times laid out the deal.

…the company proposes to stop at nothing short of supplying every man, woman and child “who do write” with a “Dashaway” pen. Here is their latest offer: They will send a $2.50 Dashaway pen to every one who will send them $1 and the name of the successful Presidential candidate. All that the applicant has to do is to write legibly on a piece of paper about three inches square his or her own name (both sexes are allowed to compete) and full address, and the name of the candidate he or she thinks will be elected our next President:

The ticket, together with $1, is to be brought or mailed to the Caw’s Ink and Pen Company, 189 Broadway, between Cortlandt and Dey Streets, and each applicant will receive a ticket like this:

It is not expected that everyone will name the successful candidate, therefore the company promises to apply the $1 received from those who name the defeated one toward the payment of a $4 Dashaway. That is, those on the defeated side can have a $4 pen by investing $3 more; everyone gets full value of the dollar which accompanies his guess, and if he guesses right he gets a $2.50 pen by mail free of further expense, or he can have a $4 for an additional $1.50.

Harrison defeated Cleveland in that election and, one way or another, Brown was able to get the “Dashaway” endorsed by Harrison. The promotional campaign was apparently so successful that Brown launched another “pick the president” contest in 1892 when Cleveland defeated Harrison. Obviously non-partisan, he got an endorsement from Cleveland as well. Both can be found in a December 12, 1897 New York World advertisement.

The company’s focus on pens had increased to such an extent that it ultimately resulted in a subtle but significant change in the name of the company. Sometime in 1893, Brown reversed the words ink and pen in the company name, now calling it the Caws Pen & Ink Company.

N.Y.C. directory advertisements in 1892 and 1894 bear this out, with 1892 on the left and 1894 on the right.


Shortly after their name change the company introduced another pen called the safety fountain pen and by 1896 they were advertising four brands including one, the “Lady,” later renamed the “Dainty,”  aimed directly at the women’s market  “Equal to the Best but Smaller.”

That’s not to say that their inks were forgotten. According to an 1894 advertisement in the Fall River (Mass) Globe:

Any good make of ink can be used in these pens, but Caw’s blue black, now in use all over the country, is the best to use in any fountain pen, when first used it writes a deep blue soon turning to intense and permeant black. It will not corrode the pen, and its many good qualities make it renowned.

They referred to their blue black ink as Caw’s Fountain Ink. It was included in this January 5, 1896 New York Sun advertisement along with their original Black Fluid Ink.


A description of the company’s exhibit at the Paris Exhibition in 1900 found in the March 19, 1900 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, made it clear that by then they had expanded their menu of ink types and colors even further.

CAWS PEN AND INK COMPANY, NEW YORK CITY – In addition to a full display of the various inks which the company manufactures there is exhibited a line of its Dashaway and Stylographic fountain pens, some of them handsomely and elabotately made and mounted. In the line of inks there are many varieties, including the black fluid, fountain, counting houses, stylographic, carmine, violet, green and blue, as well as samples of the firm’s combined ink bottle and filler for fountain and stylographic pens.

Up to the turn of the century, although they used several different addresses at different times, the company was always located along Broadway in lower Manhattan, . Their stay at the initial 233 Broadway location was short and by May 5, 1887 an item in the American Stationer announced that they had moved further south.

The Caw’s Ink and Pen Company, since its recent removal from 233 to 189 Broadway, has been doing a much larger retail business, and reports an increase in the wholesale trade as well.

Subsequently their Broadway addresses, along with approximate dates of occupancy, were: 189 Broadway (1887 to 1889); 157 Broadway (1889 to 1890); 104 Broadway (1891 to 1894); 168 Broadway (1895 to 1901) and 227 Broadway (1902 to 1903).  These locations were apparently retail stores/showrooms. Occasionally the directories also listed a factory location at 42 Dey Street (1890’s) and later at 53 Vesey (early 1900’s).

The company moved off Broadway in 1904 but remained in lower Manhattan through the mid 1920’s, during which time their newspaper and magazine advertising dropped off significantly. One ad I did find appeared in the June 20, 1916 edition of Paterson, New Jersey’s Morning Call. Run by a local hardware store, it touted the safety pen that was introduced 20 years earlier. This suggests that by then the company’s innovative years were behind them.

The Caw’s Pen & Ink Company was last listed in 1925, likely signaling the end of the business. That year, Brown, in addition to being associated with company, now located at 30 Church Street, was also listed individually at the same address with the occupation of “insurance.” Census records in 1930 included Brown’s occupation as “insurance salesman,” with no mention of ink or pens.

The bottle I found is mouth blown with a contents of 1-1/2 ounces. It’s similar to this labeled example recently offered for sale on the Internet.


I suspect that it contained either their Black Fluid Ink or Fountain Ink. According to pricing contained in a January, 1896 advertisement, either type, purchased in the 1- 1/2 ounce size, could be had for a nickel.


The bottle has an applied finish that’s not tooled so it could date to the 1890’s when the advertisement was published.

On a final note: All available N.Y.C Copartnership and Corporation directories that I can get my hands on named Francis Cashell Brown’s wife, Marie Brown, as the principal of the Caws Ink & Pen Company and later the Caws Pen & Ink Company, but it was certainly Francis Cashel Brown who, as manager, ran the show. A successful business man, he apparently had an eccentric side to him as well, crediting his youthful vitality at the age of 67 to what he called “walking on his head.” A story published in the November 10, 1918 edition of the Los Angeles Express fills in some of the details.

Brown was standing on his head – actually standing on his head in the private office; head on the ledger taken from a bookkeeper’s desk, ledger on a slim-legged very shaky cane-seated chair; position about midway between the safe and the roll-top desk; time about noon. Standing on his head and enjoying it.

Francis Cashel Brown, executive manager of an old established pen and ink concern, was standing on his head. Erect, straight-limbed, only a quarter of an inch less than six feet tall, abundantly thatched with iron gray hair and turned 65, he is old and experienced enough to know better, most people would say. But as he himself figures it, he is old enough to know, or feels that he knows, that physical topsy turvying, far from being a mere ebullition in a spectacular form, is a distinctly superior method of putting what is sometimes called pep in a tired business man.

“When I was a boy I used to turn handsprings and somersaults and stand on my head.” said he. And two years ago, when I was all bunged up with indigestion and catarrh, and had all sorts of kinks in my system, I figured out that something had to be done. I had never been an athlete, but I remembered how good I used to feel when I was kicking up my heels, and I went to it again.

I don’t know a thing about anatomy and physiology, which isn’t common knowledge to most people; and as to the why’s and wherefores of the doctors, I am densely ignorant. But it does seem to me that if we can keep the blood circulating through our arteries and veins as it does in youth we will escape many of the troubles which come after middle age…

There is no reason why a lot of us shouldn’t become centenarians. I myself feel that I am headed that way and going strong.”

Brown went so far as to write a 39 page booklet entitled “Walking on Your Head.” The booklet cost $3.00 which he said was not for the little book but for the “BIG IDEA.” This advertisement for it appeared in the October 4, 1917 issue of Life Magazine.

Brown passed away in February, 1939 at the ripe old age of 85. So while the concept did not make Brown a centenarian, there still may be something to it?