Carter’s Ink


Most accounts credit William Carter as the inventor of Carter’s Ink  sometime in 1858, however, the seeds of the business date back to the 1820’s and his father, Timothy H. Carter. Born around the turn of the 19th Century, according to the May 1908 edition of Walden’s Stationer and Printer:

Timothy H. Carter, was the progenitor of the large family of that name, who occupy an enviable and influential position in the Boston paper and stationery trades today. He is reputed to have constructed the first power printing press in this city and also to have operated the first type foundry in New England. With a Mr. Hendee, he started in the bookselling and publishing business under the name of Old Corner Book Store, whose former home at Washington & School Streets , is yet standing…

Listed in Boston’s 1823 directory at 5 Beacon Street, a July 13, 1894 Boston Globe item written at the time of his death, reminisced:

The death of T. H. Carter recalls the fact that only 70 years ago he, as well as others, pastured cows on Boston Common.

Throughout the late 1840’s and 1850’s T. H Carter was listed in the Boston directories as a publisher with a Water Street address. It was at some point, likely in the late 1850’s, that his son William joined him at Water Street and Carter’s Ink was born. A September 11,1923 story in the Cambridge Tribune begins the story.

William Carter who was engaged in the wholesale paper business on Water Street, Boston, began manufacturing inks as a side line in 1858. He produced a combined writing and copying ink of the gall and iron type. The ink in general use for office work at the time was not adapted to copying, and Carter’s Combined, which not only gave satisfactory copies but flowed almost as easily as a writing ink, marked an innovation in the history of American ink making

In 1860, both William and his brother Edward had joined their father on Water Street and had apparently taken over the business, listing it for the first time in the Boston directories as Wm. Carter & Bro. It was around this time that they likely commenced the sale of the ink as an offshoot of the paper and publishing business. An August 11, 1887 feature on the Carter business in the American Stationer described the fledgling operation like this:

Although the accommodations for this new line of business were not of larger magnitude than an old loft above their store, where a few casks and barrels served as a laboratory, the daily output of that crude factory filled at that time a needed want; and while the demand of those early days was not equal to the wants of the present time, Carter’s combined writing and copying ink of ante-bellum days, crude as it was, possessed the characteristics which have since, with some improvements, won for it a widespread popularity throughout America.

Not surprisingly, I can’t find any advertising for their inks prior to 1864 and that fact, coupled with this 1862 advertisement in a newspaper called the New England Farmer, provides evidence that publishing continued to be the focus of the business in the early 1860’s.

Sometime around 1868 the business moved from Water Street to 27 Milk Street and by this time, a second brother, John, and a cousin, John W. Carter, had  joined the business, changing the listed company name to Carter Bros. & Co. This full page Carter Bros. advertisement for their “Combined Writing and Copying Ink” that appeared in an 1869 Directory of Legal Correspondents certainly suggests that, by decade’s end, the ink manufacturing portion of the business had gained traction.

The business operated under the name Carter Bros. & Co. until 1872. At that point, with William Carter now deceased, it was agreed to split the business into two separate companies. William’s son, John Carter, continued the paper business in partnership with C. T. Pulsifer and J. P. Jordan under the original name of Carter Bros & Co. John W. Carter partnered with James P. Dinsmore and together they formed Carter, Dinsmore & Co. to take over the ink manufacturing part of the business.

Dinsmore was a New York City druggist located at 491 Broadway and later 36 Dey Street for much of the 1860’s. During that period he was associated with a number of patent medicines, most notably Peruvian Syrup..

In 1864 he was also serving as an agent for Carter’s Ink as evidenced by a March 21, 1864 advertisement in the New York Times. Months earlier, in December of 1863, Dinsmore was running the exact same advertisement in the Times sans the word “Carter’s,” so it’s likely that his relationship with the Carter business dated back at least as far as late 1863. Both advertisements are shown below (1863 on the left and 1864 on the right).

By 1870, according to a feature in the September 15, 1884 edition of “The American Bookseller,” Dinsmore had purchased an interest in the Carter Business and, shortly afterwards, this 1871 advertisement in A. Roman & Co.’s Fall Bulletin named him as the manufacturer and proprietor of Carter’s Inks in New York, where he remained listed at his 36 Dey Street address.

Unfortunately, the agreement to split the company coincided with Boston’s great fire of 1872. According to the August 11, 1887 American Stationer feature:

Just on the eve of the great Boston fire of 1872 Messrs. Carter and Dinsmore had concluded negotiations with the other partners in the growing business, and had together secured its control; but on the following night the ink factory, with the paper warehouse of Carter Bos. & Co., shared the fate of all those business houses situated in that part of the city which was for so many years after known only as the “burnt district.” The heavy fire losses of that disastrous conflagration ruined the insurance companies and Carter & Dinsmore were somewhat crippled but their faith in Carter’s Ink was as strong as ever, and so, with commendable enterprise, they secured other quarters and went to work again.

Both companies ultimately survived the fire. The paper business of Carter Bros. & Co resurfaced with a listed address of 45 & 47 Federal Street in Boston’s 1874 directory. Carter, Dinsmore & Co. was temporarily listed at 84 Broad and 34 Plympton in 1873 before establishing a permanent facility at 35 & 37 Batterymarch Street where they were first listed in the 1874 Boston Directory.

Around the time Carter, Dinsmore & Co. was established they were offering several different styled inks in addition to their “Combined Ink.” This November, 1873 advertisement for a Milwaukee, Wisconsin stationery store named several, including a “Perfumed Boudoir Ink.”

This December 2, 1882 advertisement indicated that they packaged and sold their ink in a wide array of bottle sizes and types, some of which were decorative in nature and served the dual purpose of pen holder.

This all contributed to the exponential growth of their ink production in the ten years between 1874 and 1884 A feature on the business published in the September 15, 1884 edition of the American Bookseller quantified the company’s expansion during this period.

The immense growth of the business of Messrs. Carter Dinsmore & Co. will be comprehended when it is known that shortly after the great Boston fire their annual product was 100,000 bottles, while at the present time they manufacture annually between 4,000,ooo and 5,000,000. This necessitates the bottling and sale of about 15,000 bottles daily…

Also contributing to the growth of the business during this period was  “Carter’s” Mucilage as well as a high end version of it called “Arabin” that was introduced in 1883. Adhesives, they were described in the May 22, 1884 edition of the American Stationer.

Mucilage is another specialty of this house, and the same standard of excellence found in its inks has made Carter’s mucilage equally as popular. Carter’s Arabin is a later product of the mucilaginous order, and this is a gum preparation that the manufacturers claim can not be equalled for sticking qualities by anything in the market. The Arabin differs from ordinary mucilage in that all of the impurities are extracted from the gum and only its sticking particles are admitted into the preparation.

The 1884 American Bookseller feature went on to mention several ancillary items the company was also producing at the time.

It also manufactures a variety of stationery articles for the desk, such as ink and mucilage stands, adjustable pen-racks, panoramic calendars, etc., the popularity of which has contributed not a little toward the sale of Carter’s Inks.

Ultimately the need for expanded facilities became evident and  plans for a new building, also in Boston, were announced in the Real Estate section of the November 25, 1883 edition of the Boston Globe.

A new building is to be erected by Carter, Dinsmore & Co., the ink manufacturers, on Columbus Avenue. The front is to be modeled after that of the New York Produce Exchange, which is highly praised. It will have sixty-six feet frontage on Columbus Avenue and will be five stories high.

The company moved into the new facility  in early 1884 and they were first listed with an address of 162 to 172 Columbus Avenue in Boston’s 1885 directory.

Descriptions of the building mentioned that the 7,000 square foot cellar had room to store 5,000,000 bottles.

Over the next ten years the company would lose both of their original founders when Dinsmore retired in the late 1880’s and John W. Carter accidentally drowned in 1895. Shortly after Carter’s death the business was incorporated under the name  “The Carter’s Ink Company.” It was managed by the trustees of his estate until 1901 when Carter’s oldest son, Richard B. Carter assumed the presidency. He would continue to serve as president until his death in 1949.

If there was any turmoil during this transitional period it wasn’t evident as the company continued to expand, adding an entirely new line of products. According to the September 11, 1923 Cambridge Chronicle feature:

The Company early turned its attention to products closely related to inks. It’s Photo-Library Paste, introduced in the 90’s when amateur photography first became popular, has become a standard throughout the world. About the same time a line of typewriter ribbons and carbon papers was put on the market and the company has since been a leader in those lines.

The Photo-Library paste, typewriter ribbons and carbon paper were all reflected in the company’s 1899 advertisement in the Boston Directory.

Another Cambridge Chronicle story, this one published in the April 10, 1909 edition, went on to provide a pretty concise description of the company during the first decade of the 20th century.

At no period has the growth of the business been more rapid than in the last eight or ten years. A considerable share of the growth is due to the ribbon and carbon line which was added some years prior to the death of the founder, with the idea that the wonderful growth of the typewriter business might curtail the use of writing and copying inks. No such fear has been realized, as both branches of the business have grown enormously. Everything except the actual manufacturing has been gradually crowded out of the present factory until the move now contemplated became an absolute necessity. The office and factory employees of the company, now located in Boston, number about 200, and there are 35 salesmen with headquarters in the United States who sell the company’s products not only in this country, but in practically every country of the civilized world. The company maintains its own warehouses in New York, Chicago, Montreal (Canada), London (England), and Brussels (Belgium), at which points 50 more hands are employed while various other special agencies and trade connections are scattered all over the globe.

As the above story mentioned, having outgrown their Columbus Avenue factory they were planning another move. The September 11, 1923 Cambridge Tribune picks it up from there.

The company then did as so many others have done. In seeking a location close to the city and yet away from its congestion, where spur track facilities were available and where room for future growth could be acquired at a reasonable figure, the advantages of Kendall Square appeared to the company preeminent. The handsome factory erected on First Street is today, the first building seen in Cambridge when crossing the Cambridge Bridge, and the two huge electric Carter’s Inks signs are now landmarks pointing to Kendall Square.

The building’s location in Cambridge was illustrated in this aerial photograph published in the March 25, 1920 edition of Geyer’s Stationer. Taken from what the photo caption referred to as an airship, the Carter building is located in the left foreground at the end of the bridge (white bldg. on the far side of the bridge).

The company moved into their new factory in early 1910 and shortly afterwards the company began featuring it in their advertisements. The following ad appeared in the 1912 Cambridge directory.

In fact, it’s the building itself that provides one of the best illustrations of just how far the company had come since the “great fire.” Consider this description of the new facility’s bottling and labeling operation:

Throughout the plant every possible operation is done by automatic machines. There are machines which fill eight one-quart bottles simultaneously and others which fill, cork and label small bottles. The battery of labelling machines has a capacity of one hundred thousand bottles per day.

Quite a statement considering that back in 1874, 100,000 bottles was their annual output!

It was in 1913 that Carter’s launched a highly successful advertising campaign that featured Mr. & Mrs. Carter Inx. In an essay written by Fletcher W. Taft, Advertising Manager for the Carter’s Ink Company, that was published in the February 15, 1915 edition of Advertising and Selling, he indicated that the company was endeavoring to inject a “Carter” personality into their product line. According to Taft:

We cast around for some time in our endeavor to secure this and at last solved our problem by the little novelty bottles which we call “Mr. and Mrs. Carter Inx.” They are intended to appeal by their unique appearance and general unusualness to man, woman and child, so that they will be put on the consumer’s desk and connect in the mind of the consumer our publicity with his desk needs.


Taft went on to say:

…while playing up the bottles, we emphasized still more strongly the ink itself, so that the publicity would ultimately associate the word “Inx” as the trade name for our entire line.

This 1919 advertisement listed their entire product menu under the “INX” heading, and also illustrated some of their packaging at the time.

In the the mid-teens, it appears that the company continued to increase their focus on products related to ink. As early as 1915 they were advertising an ink eraser called “Inky Racer,” that would “lift bothersome blots from paper, wood and cloth.

Later, this February 23, 1923 item published in a trade magazine called  “Office Appliances,” announced the addition of : “More speedsters in Carter’s Family,” namely, “Spotty Racer” and “Rusty Racer.”

The Carter’s Ink Company, Boston, Mass., has added to its “Racer” family. The “Inky Racer” is already familiar to the trade. The automobile has added greatly to the menace of grease and tar spots in the home. “Spotty Racer” is a new development from the Carter laboratories. It removes grease, road oil, tar, etc., from clothing, rugs, cushions, etc., without leaving a ring, and without a great deal of labor. It is not flammable. There are incidental uses of interest. “Spotty Racer” added in small quantity to the water used for washing windows, paint work, floors and bathroom fixtures will remove grease, oil and grime easily and quickly. A few drops rubbed into the palm of the hands before rinsing with water will quickly excorcise grease grit and grime.

Carters “Rusty Racer” removes rust stains from table and personal linen, whether acquired in the laundry, golf bag or hanging on a hook in humid location. In addition, fruit, coffee and similar stains common  to the household can be cleaned away. “Rusty Racer” is provided with a glass rod for applying.

Both of these new Carter products are put up in attractive packages, retailing for twenty-five cents. They are a magnet which the stationer can employ to attract more attention from women.

Sometime in the mid- 1920’s the company began to advertise pens to go along with their inks and by Christmas of 1927 you could give a Careter’s pen and pencil set and desk stand as a gift.


Already producing stamp pad ink, by the end of the decade they were also producing stamp pads, as evidenced by this January 25, 1929 advertisement in Grand Junction, Colorado’s Daily Sentinel.

Twenty five years later, a general product listing of Carter products found in a January 14, 1956 advertisement in the North Adams (Mass) Transcript matched those they were producing in 1930. This suggests that while brand names may have changed from time to time, there was little, if any, additional expansion of their product lines after 1930. The one exception appears to have occurred in the early 1960’s when they introduced the felt marker. This Life Magazine advertisement was published in their March 15, 1963 issue.

Richard B. Carter served as president of the company up until his death in 1949. After which long time employees Samuel G. Wonders (1949 to 1955) and Nathan C. Hubley (1955 to 1976) each served terms as president.

Hubley was still president in 1976 when the company was acquired by the Dennison Manufacturing Co. The acquisition was reported in the July 7, 1976 edition of the Boston Globe.

Dennison Manufacturing Co.of Framingham said it reached an agreement to acquire Carter’s Ink Co., a privately held concern based in Cambridge, for about $17 million in cash. Nelson S. Gifford, Dennison president, said Carter’s will continue to operate under its present management as a separate division…

Dennison Manufacturing merged with Avery International in 1990, forming the Avery-Dennison Corp. Today they continue to market stamp pads and stamp pad ink under the Carter name.

Shortly after Carter’s was acquired by the Dennison Manufacturing Corp., they apparently left Cambridge for Framingham. When exactly is not clear but they had certainly left by the time an October 17,1979 story in the Boston Globe announced the renovation of the Carter Ink building as part of a $200 million redevelopment of East Cambridge. This recent photograph of the building is courtesy of Google Earth.

Now a commercial building at the very top under the “Forsyth” sign there remains a little reminder of its original owner.

Their last Boston building on  Columbus Avenue also remains to this day. A February 25, 1979 Boston Globe story announced the building’s $1.5 million renovation.

On Columbus Avenue, the Perini Land & Development Co. and architect Gary Graham, as joint venture, will recycle the building at 162 into 12 racquetball courts, a light dining room, a pro shop, exercise rooms, saunas and whirlpool baths for men and women.

Now a commercial building with a ground floor restaurant, here it is today, again courtesy of Google Earth.

I’ve found two Carter’s Ink bottles over the years. Both mouth blown, one is cone shaped, the other barrel shaped. The barrel shaped bottle matches one included in an 1880’s advertisement for Carter’s”Koal Black Ink.”

Take note of the cork screw illustrated with the advertised bottle. I’ll end this post with an advertisement disguised as a news item that described the advantages this little detail afforded its user. The somewhat humorous item entitled, “A Yankee Invention,” appeared in the May 20, 1880 edition of the Torborough (North Carolina) Southerner.

On Monday morning we were presented by Mr. H. H. Shaw, our worthy Postmaster, with a bottle of Carter’s Blue-Black Ink. Each quart bottle has a little cork screw attached for withdrawing the stopper. We regard this as a moral invention, as more religion has been lost in removing the cork from ink bottles than any other one thing. It always ended by having to drive the stopper in and then lose your ink by evaporation. The ink is of excellent quality; don’t get thick or stringy, corrode steel pens or freeze. Send to Carter, Dinsmore & Co., Boston.

Whether the corkscrew was actually a Carter, Dinsmore invention or not is open to speculation.



Higgins Inks, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Higgins Ink was manufactured in Brooklyn, New York from the early 1880’s up through the late 1960’s and possibly longer. Still available today, it’s bottled and packaged in Leeds, Massachusetts by Chartpak, Inc., and still bears the name of its founder, Irish immigrant and long time Brooklyn resident, Charles M. Higgins.

An October 23, 1929 Brooklyn Times Union feature on Higgins provided some background.

Born in Moluch Brach, County Roscommen, Ireland, on October 4, 1854, Mr. Higgins came to America at the age of 6. Arriving here with his brothers and sisters, he joined his parents, who had proceeded them. They settled in Brooklyn’s Park Slope section where he lived all his life.

In the mid to late 1870’s, Brooklyn city directories listed Higgins as a patent solicitor living on Hoyt Street and later Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. In the early 1880’s he set up shop in Manhattan where his patent business was first listed at 10 Spruce Street. By 1883 he had moved the business to 5 Beekman Street where it would remain listed through 1900. His business card appeared in the February 3, 1887 edition of the American Stationer.

It was during his early years as a patent solicitor that Higgins Ink got its start. An article summarizing the Higgins business written years later in the September 8, 1941 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle provided this early history.

Mr. Higgins secured his first patent as early as 1875 when he was but 19 years old. He drifted into the drafting position and after several years opened his own offices to conduct a patent solicitation business. Meanwhile his spare times and evenings he spent in his sister-in-law’s kitchen, on Brooklyn Heights, conducting experiments in ink making. He produced many articles and in 1880 concluded an agreement with a Manhattan firm to act as a selling agent for distribution of Higgins Inks.

At the outset ink sales were scant so that for several years the fluid was manufactured at home while Mr. Higgins carried on his patent business. However, in 1885 a copartnership between Mr. Higgins and his brother-in-law, John Gianella was formed to make the ink under the name of Charles M. Higgins & Co. After several years Mr. Higgins devoted his entire efforts to the new business and the first plant was erected and placed in operation at 168 8th St., Brooklyn.

New York City directories support and add to the above story and also serve to better establish time frames. It was in 1883, the same year he moved to 5 Beekman Street,that the directories mention inks for the first time. That year his occupational heading in the Manhattan and Bronx Directory read “Patent Solicitor and Manufacturer of Carbon Inks.” The business of Charles M. Higgins & Co. initially appeared two years later in the 1886 directory, also at the 5 Beekman Street address.

While Higgins maintained his patent office in Manhattan for another 15 years or so, by 1888 he had moved his ink operation to Brooklyn. Located between Third and Fourth Avenues, his factory building and yard occupied the entire 75 foot wide footprint between 168-172  Eighth Street and 197-201 Ninth Street.

Over the course of the next twelve years the company expanded until, according to the 1941 Brooklyn Daily Eagle story, they were forced to move to new quarters located one block away between Fourth and Fifth Avenues:

Shortly thereafter the selling agent failed and the Higgins firm inaugurated the policy of selling directly to the trade leading to great expansion. The company line was added to with various other types of inks and commercial pastes. Between 1890 and 1900 Mr. Higgins was granted 21 patents relating to manufacture of inks and adhesives. The next year new quarters at 244-248 8th Street were erected and occupied.

At around the same time that Higgins erected the factory at 244 Eighth Street the company began to list their main office at 271 Ninth Street. Like their previous location, the back to back properties encompassed the entire area between Eighth Street and Ninth Street. By the early 1900’s the company was advertising London and Chicago offices as well as the main office in Brooklyn.

In 1904, no longer in need of their former site at 168 Eighth Street, they offered it up for sale. The classified advertisement, published in the February 28, 1904 edition of the Brooklyn Citizen, certainly made it clear that their Brooklyn location, with its nearby transportation facilities was, in no small way, a contributing factor to the the company’s expansion. So it’s no surprise that the company’s new facility remained in the same area.

By the time the company had settled into the new location, their product line included a line of adhesives in addition to their inks. A feature on the Charles M. Higgins Co. published in the September 1910 edition of “Dun’s Review” highlighted several adhesives including Higgins’ Office Paste, describing it as:

A pure opalescent white paste for general office and home use and the fine stationery trade. This spreads with great ease and smoothness, catches quickly and dries quickly and does not strike through or warp the paper.

Several other brands of paste and glue that were manufactured during this period were listed by this newspaper and magazine advertisement that appeared throughout much of the early 1900’s.

Ink however was their mainstay and the company produced both drawing inks and writing inks. According to the 1910 “Duns Review” feature their drawing inks were the ink of choice for those involved in the development of technical drawings.

Higgins’ American drawing inks are used by leading artists, architects, engineers, schools and colleges, and the manufacturers state three-fourths of the professional draftsmen use no other drawing ink. This ink is made in black and in twelve colors, the black ink being of two kinds – waterproof, which is insoluble when dry, and general, which is soluble when dry.


A price list found in the August 1910 edition of W. & L. E. Gurley’s “Manual of the Principal Instruments Used In American Engineering and Surveying” illustrated the ink’s menu of colors.

The company’s writing inks were manufactured under two names: Higgins’ “Eternal” Ink and Higgins’ “Engrossing” Ink. Both names were registered as trademarks on March 6, 1883.


An article written under the heading “Industrial Progress,” and published in a 1910/1911 edition of a publication entitled “Architects and Builders Magazine,” suggested that the inclusion of carbon in their writing inks was the secret to their success.

The ordinary ink of commerce is made of iron and nutgalls and within a short time turns a dim brown, or yellow, but the ink manufactured by the Chas. M. Higgins & Co. is made of pure carbon in solution, the only permanent everlasting coloring matter.

The writing in ancient manuscripts hundreds and thousands of years old is today as black and clear as when first written. This is because the inks were not chemical inks, were not made from iron and nutgalls, but were made from PURE CARBON.

An ink that would write a true black from the pen point, that would stay black forever, proof to effects of age, air, sunshine, chemicals and fire, the unchangeable ink of the ancients, has been considered a lost art.

And it was lost until by careful research and experiment Mr. Chas. M. Higgins mastered the secret of holding carbon in permanent suspension or solution, as was necessary in making a practical carbon writing ink.

The “Duns Review” feature explained the distinction between the “Eternal” and “Engrossing” brands.

For writing ink the firm manufactures the Higgins’ “Eternal” ink, which always remains black from the instant it leaves the point of the pen and is proof against age, air, sunshine, chemicals and fire. The ink can be diluted for use in fountain pens, while it is furnished in just the right consistency for bank, legal and corporation use, business and general correspondence and official records. For the last purpose, however, as well as for engrossing and fancy penmanship, the firm manufactures a dense black indestructible ink known as Higgins’ “Engrossing” ink.

Charles Higgins passed away in October, 1929 after which his son,Tracy Higgins, assumed the presidency.  According to the elder Higgins’ October 23, 1929 obituary, he had been “ailing for eight years,” so it’s likely that Tracy was managing much, if not all, of the business for some time prior tp Charles’s death.

In 1941 Tracy changed the name of the business to the Higgins Ink Co. The reasoning behind the name change was explained in a June 11, 1941 story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The firm founded by the Higgins family in 1880, and operated for 60 years under the name of Charles M. Higgins & Co., will be known in the future as Higgins Ink Co., Inc., it was announced today.

The change in corporate title, it was explained by Tracy M. Higgins, president of the firm, at his office, 271 9th St., signifies no changes of ownership or policy, but is merely an effort to use a shorter name more easy to remember.

The A. W. Faber-Castell Pencil Co., Inc. acquired the Higgins Ink Company in 1964. The acquisition was reported in the October 8, 1964 edition of the (Passaic, N. J.) Herald News.

Two of the oldest and best known firms in the drawing materials industry have been combined.

The 121-year-old A. W. Faber-Castell Pencil Co., Inc., of Newark announced yesterday it has acquired the 84-year-old Higgins Ink Co., of Brooklyn.

Harry U. Bittman, president of Faber-Castell, said Higgins Ink will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary but retain its identity and maintain its headquarters and factory in Brooklyn.

Peter O. Everson, president of Higgins Ink, and Tracy Higgins, executive vice president, will continue in their present positions.

Irish-born patent solicitor Charles M. Higgins founded Higgins Ink in 1880. He developed a formula for ink which is still the basis of the firm’s present production of 4 million bottles a year.

Higgins Ink Co. was still listed at their Brooklyn location in the late 1960’s (1967 is the last directory I can find). It’s not clear exactly when the company left Brooklyn but it was likely sometime in the 1970’s.

Higgins Inks continued to be associated with Faber-Castell up through at least the mid-1990’s as evidenced by this August 31, 1994 advertisement in the Baltimore Sun.

Today Chartpak, Inc. owns the Higgins brand and you can still buy their drawing inks as well as their “Eternal” writing ink.

Their long time Brooklyn office and factory buildings still exist to this day. The office building at 271 Ninth Street is actually a three story mansion that, according to was originally built in 1857 for a banker named William Cronyn.

The factory, built at the turn of the century and located behind the office at 244 Eighth Street is now a residential apartment building.

The bottle I found is a small mouth blown ink bottle with “Higgins Inks, Brooklyn, N. Y. embossed on the base. It matches the drawing ink bottle included in several late 1800’s/early 1900’s advertisements.


Today their drawing ink bottle, though now made of plastic, still pretty much maintains the same shape as it did back then.

On a final note, an article written by Fred N. Holabird entitled: “The Original Higgins Ink, A Nevada Invention,” published in the Spring, 2003 edition of “Bottles and Extra’s,” speculates that there might be a connection between the Higgins Ink of Brooklyn and Rufus L. Higgins of Virginia City, Nevada whose inks date back to the 1860’s. Rufus left Virginia City in 1876 after his grocery store burned down, never to be heard from again.

The fact that both share the Higgins name and that Charles, a patent solicitor, came up with his ink recipe around the time Rufus disappeared certainly fuels that speculation. Holabird writes:

The coincidence of Charles Higgins “inventing” his ink just after R. L. Higgins made his in Virginia City, only to have his business and inventory destroyed by fire, is remarkable. Both events happened within a year of each other. Were the two relatives? Did a depressed and broke Rufus give away the formula to his relative? Do Charles original notes contain Rufus’ name? Did Rufus quietly move to the East Coast to help Charles?

In our research, we were unable to locate Rufus in the West or New York after 1876, nor able to construct a family tree of either man. Meanwhile, the coincidence of timing, product commonality and surname certainly point to shared knowledge…Only more advanced research will answer these questions.


Winsor & Newton, London

Established in 1832, Winsor & Newton quickly grew to become one of the main suppliers of art related materials in the world, manufacturing a wide array of items that included oils, alkyds, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, brushes, canvases and papers.  Today, the business remains a major player in the art industry.

Originally established at 38 Rathborne Place in London, the company’s history in Britain is documented in great detail by the U. K.’s National Portrait Gallery. Excerpts from that history are presented below.

The business was founded in 1832 by two childhood friends, William Winsor (1804-64), chemist and artist, and Henry Charles Newton (1805-82), artist.

In 1837 Winsor & Newton acquired a varnish factory at King’s Cross and also took premises at Blackfriars for the grinding of oil colors. These facilities were replaced or extended in 1844 when they set up a steam power factory in Kentish Town, known as the North London Colour Works which continued in use until 1938.

William Winsor’s partnership with Newton was dissolved from 31 December 1864, some months before his death. His son William Henry Winsor (1831-79) inherited his father’s share of the Winsor & Newton business, which was subsequently purchased by Newton.

Winsor & Newton became a limited company in 1882, shortly before Henry Charles Newton’s death. The signatories to the company’s Memorandum of Association in 1882 were Henry Charles Newton, his son Arthur Henry Newton, his son-in-law Arthur Anderson West, Robert White Thrupp and William Winsor’s nephew, William John Winsor.

Winsor & Newton’s canvas, brush and woodwork manufacturing facilities were relocated to Wealdstone in Harrow in 1898, with the color works following in 1937 and head office in 1938. Brush making was moved to a new factory at Lowestoft in 1946.

The last family member to act as a director of the company was Guy Newton, great-grandson of the founder. Winsor & Newton became a public company when it floated on the stock exchange in 1957. It acquired Charles G.Page of Tottenham, maker of toy metal paint boxes in 1963. Winsor & Newton Ltd itself was acquired by Reckitt & Colman in 1976. In 2006 Winsor & Newton was owned by the Swedish based ColArt.

Less than 20 years after the company’s inception advertisements for their products began to appear in United States newspapers. The earliest advertisement I could find, published in the April 16, 1851 edition of the Vermont Family Gazette, provided a menu of available Winsor & Newton materials under the heading “Fresh Importations.”

The advertisement was prepared by the firm of M. J. Whipple of Boston, Massachusetts who described themselves  as “importers of artists’ and drawing materials in every variety.” Up through the late 1880’s the company apparently used import firms like Whipple to distribute their products in the United States.

In New York City, it’s likely that one of the first companies to import their materials was Masury & Whiton. Both a manufacturer and importer of artists’ materials, they were associated with Winsor & Newton dating back to 1857/1858 and possibly earlier under their former name of Masury & Weeks.

The New York Sketch Book and Merchants Guide, dated 1858, included a description of Masury & Whiton that made reference to their relationship with Winsor & Newton.

In artists materials Messrs. Masury & Whiton are probably the largest in the United States. It is a general depot for artists’ materials for the trade, of any and every conceivable description.

The assortment of goods comprises, white lead and zinc paints, colors and brushes; materials for house, ship, and sign painting; for painting in oil colors – brushes, palettes, palette knives, easels, chairs, tents, boxes, etc.; materials for daguerreotypists, lithographers, et id genus omne; including a constant and full supply of Winsor & Newton’s celebrated oil and water colors, canvases, moist water colors in tubes and pans, mill boards, etc.

Having agents in Paris and London, this firm has unequaled facilities for the importation of goods, while there own manufacturing resources enable them to supply, either in large or small quantities, any article connected with plain, fancy or ornamental painting…

The 1858 Sketch Book and Merchants Guide went on to say that, at the time, Masury & Whiton maintained a commodious factory in Brooklyn and a warehouse situated at No. 111 Fulton Street and No 50 Ann Street, having a front on each Street.

This Masury & Whiton advertisement referencing Winsor & Newton was dated June 1, 1859 and appeared in several 1859 editions of the Carlisle (Pa.) Weekly Herald.

Other New York City area importers of artists’ materials that advertised Winsor & Newton materials were C. W. Keenan and M. H. Hartmann. Both advertised Winsor & Newton art materials in the mid to late 1880’s. C. W. Keenan was a Brooklyn firm that at the time was located on the corner of Fulton Street and Jay Street. Their advertising items quite often appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Hartmann was located in Manhattan at the corner of 12th Street and Fourth Avenue. This advertisement appeared in the January 9, 1886 edition of Home Decoration.

According to the U. K.’s Portrait Gallery, by 1889 Winsor & Newton had established a company presence in New York City. That being said, I can’t find a NYC directory listing for them until 1897. Adding to the confusion, according to his 1926 obituary, the company’s long time New York manager, Louis A. Munkelt did not arrive in the United States until 1894. Based on this information I think it’s safe to conclude that by the mid-1890’s Winsor & Newton was operating in the United States.

This is further evidenced by the fact that at around this time the availability of their products, at least in New York City, was expanding from the artists specialty stores to include the City’s major department stores. In the mid-1890’s both Loeser’s and Abraham and Strauss had established artist departments and were advertising Winsor & Newton products, among others. In 1899 another major department store, H. Batterman’s followed suit. Their announcement was printed in the June 6 edition of the (Brooklyn) Standard Union.

The advertisement went on to say in part:

Artists will find here a large assortment of …WINSOR & NEWTONS OILS, WATER COLORS AND INKS.

By 1900 Macy’s had included Winsor & Newton materials in their advertising as well.

The first address I can find for Winsor & Newton’s New York operation was 88 Fulton Street where they were listed from 1897 through 1904. This advertisement from 1900, found in the July through September issues of a publication called The International Studio referred to it as Winsor & Newton’s American Office.

In 1905 their address changed to 298 Broadway, where they would remain listed through 1916.

In June, 1914 the business incorporated in New York as the “American Agency of Winsor & Newton, Inc.” The incorporation notice was published in the June 18, 1914 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Julius A. Munkelt was listed as one of the new company’s directors. Munkelt had been associated with the company’s New York operation for most, if not all of its existence. Prior to being named a director in the new corporation  he was included in their directory listings as either their New York manager or agent.

A year later another incorporation notice, this one published in the November 22, 1915 edition of the Eagle, announced that the company had apparently reorganized in New York under a new name, “Winsor & Newton, Inc., with no change in management.

Shortly after the second incorporation the company moved again. The 1917 American Art Annual listed their address as 31 East 17th Street. This 1924 advertisement highlighting their catalog reflected the new company name and address.

By the late teens it appears that long time New York manager Julius Munkelt had retired. (According to his obituary he had been with Winsor & Newton for 42 years) The 1918/1919 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Chas. V. T. Trickett and Adolph Stephani as directors with no mention of Munkelt.

According to the U. K.’s National Portrait Gallery the company remained in New York at various addresses until 1972. Those addresses included 31 Union Square  West from 1935 to 1949, 902 Broadway in the 1950’s and 881 Broadway in the 1960’s. By the early 1970’s they had moved across the Hudson River to Secaucus, New Jersey at 555 Winsor Drive.

The bottle I found appears to be a small ink. Mouth blown, it’s an inch and a half in diameter and a little less than three inches tall. It likely dates between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, around the time the company transitioned their New York operation from Fulton Street to Broadway. This price list found in the 1908 edition of “A Manual of the Principal Instruments used in American Engineering and Surveying,” may provide a clue as to what it contained.

Embossing on the top of the bottle’s shoulder reads “WINSOR & NEWTON LONDON,” along with the company trademark.

The trademark was described in the company’s application filed with the United States Patent Office (7,133) on November 26, 1877 as “the representation of a sea lion.”

The U. S. trademark certificate was ultimately issued on March 25, 1879.


I’ve also seen the trademark referred to as a “heraldic lion” and a “griffin.”


S. S. Stafford, Inc.


Primarily known as an ink manufacturer, S. S. Stafford, Inc. was founded by Samuel Spencer Stafford. His February 16, 1895 obituary in the New York Times mentioned his early years as well as his entrance into the ink business sometime in 1858.

He was a graduate of Union College, and also of the Albany Medical College, but he did not practice medicine. When Dr. Stafford received his medical diploma, in 1849, the California gold fever was at its height, and Dr. Stafford went to San Francisco, where he remained until 1854. In that year he returned to New York, and four years later he engaged in the manufacture of  ink.

In the four year period between 1854 and 1858 the NYC Directories listed him as an accountant at 188 Pearl (1855-56) and an engineer at 54 William (1856-57). Then, according to an 1888 feature in “The American Stationer”

In 1858 S. S. Stafford bought the trade mark and stock of Conger & Field, who were the first to make a writing fluid in this country. Their business had dwindled to small proportions and it was not long before Stafford’s inks were better known than those of his predecessors.

Conger & Field was listed in the New York directories as “ink,”  and located at 212 Broadway (1856-57) and 52 William (1857-58 and 1858-59). The proprietors were Genet Conger and George W. Field. I have to believe that they became acquainted with Stafford sometime around 1857 when they were neighbors or possibly shared a building at 52 and 54 William.

After purchasing Conger & Field, the NYC directories, listed Stafford as a “stationer,” located at 42 Cedar St (1859 -60) and later as “ink” at 84 Cedar St.  (1860-61.) By 1861-62 he was listed at 11 (sometimes 10) Cedar St. where he remained until 1870.

During this time I’ve seen advertisements for “Stafford’s Combined Writing and Copying Fluid” as well as “Stafford’s Perfumed Violet Ink” but the company did not restrict itself to the manufacture of inks alone. Other products included an adhesive called “Stickwell & Co.’s Mucilage” and a leather preservative called “Caoutchoucin.”

Sometime in early 1870 the business moved to 218 Pearl Street where it remained until 1886. At that time, according to the 1888 “American Stationer” feature, he built a factory at 601 – 609 Washington Street.

The present manufactory, of which an illustration is given, was erected by Mr. Stafford in the Spring of 1887 upon land which he purchased.

It is a plain brick structure, five stories high, 75 feet wide and 80 feet deep. Including the basement there are six floors, all of which are used in the manufacture of Stafford’s inks and Stickwell’s mucilage. The establishment is fitted with the best machinery and appliances for turning out perfect and uniform goods.

After Samuel Spencer Stafford’s death in 1895, his son, William A.H. Stafford, took over leadership of the company. According to his obituary in the January 17, 1911 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, he had entered the business in 1872 at the age of 16.

The company apparently incorporated in New York sometime in 1903. The company was listed as a New York corporation in the 1904 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory with a capital of $250,000. William A H Stafford was named president, William B Montgomery, secretary and Robert Bachia, treasurer. Following William A H Stafford’s death in January of 1911, his son, William S Stafford assumed the presidency.

The company eventually outgrew their NYC building on Washington Street and by 1906 was leasing storage space in nearby buildings. Then in 1914 they moved the carbon paper and typewriter portion of the business to leased space at 129 – 135 Charlton St. According to an item in the March 28, 1914 edition of the “American Stationer:”

Owing to a great increase in its carbon paper and typewriter business S.S. Stafford, Inc. has moved that department to 129-135 Charlton Street. The quarters which the company has occupied for many years at 601-609 Washington Street are now devoted entirely to the making of writing inks and other well known specialties made by the concern.

Six years later, according to an April 1920 item in “Walden’s Stationer & Printer,” the company purchased three buildings adjacent to their Washington Street building effectively consolidating the business at that location. This provided them an address on both Washington Street and 622 Greenwich Street.

S.S. Stafford, Inc., manufacturers of writing inks and adhesives, located at 609 Washington Street, New York City, have recently purchased three buildings in the rear of their present premises. The additional space will be combined and connected with their present home, giving them 33,000 square feet of floor space and making the line covered by their buildings 94 x 184 feet.

The carbon paper plant operated by the company at 129 Charlton Street will be removed to the new building and also outside storage space which is being used will be relinquished as fast as the leases on the same expire.

“The new arrangements will greatly economize the handling of raw materials and enable us to take care of the enormous increase in our business,” the company said.

In addition to their New York location, this 1914 advertisement also mentioned a Toronto, Canada location. Other advertisements around this time included the Toronto address as 9 Davenport Road. Later, by the early 1920’s they also added a Chicago location at 62 West Kinzie.

Through the 1920’s their menu of products continued to expand. As evidenced by this advertising item in the June 10, 1928 edition of the “Austin (Texas) American Statesman,” much of the growth was fueled by the proliferation of the automobile.

The comprehensiveness of the Stafford output is witnessed by the following enumeration of their various lines, which include writing and copying inks, paste, mucilage, glue, indelible ink, show card colors, stamping inks, stamp pads, typewriter ribbons and carbon papers, furniture and automobile body polish, and 15 other chemical automobile products including radiator stop leak, penetrating graphite oil, cushion dressing rapid repair and engine enamel, gasket shellac, gasket cement, etc.

This menu of products not withstanding, there’s no doubt that the head of the product family was always ink and they made many different types. The “Stationary and Printing” section of the 1890 edition of “Seeger and Guernsey’s Cyclopaedia of the Manufacturers of the United States,”named them as manufacturers in the following subsections: Writing Inks, Carmine Ink, Colored Inks, Copying Inks, Indelible Inks, Rubber Stamp Inks, Safety Inks and Stylographic Inks.

In the teens and early 1920’s, the product that Stafford’s primarily advertised was called Stafford’s Commercial Writing Fluid. A March 15, 1919 advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post called it “The Ink That Absorbs Moisture From The Air” and was typical of their advertisements around that time.

Do you just buy “ink” – pallid liquids which write a sickly color – which soon corrode your pens – and which, worst of all dry up in your inkwell quickly, leaving a thick, clotted residue and caked particles on the side of the well?

Or do you insist on Stafford’s Commercial Writing Fluid – the ink that absorbs moisture from the air?

This peculiar property of Stafford’s Commercial is the reason why it is so slow to evaporate in the inkwell, why it continues to flow smoothly after ordinary inks have become thick and unfit to write with. This is one of the most important discoveries in the history of ink making. It means a real savings for you.

There’s another reason for using Stafford’s Commercial. It has a strength of color which inks have lacked since the dye situation became so involved. American color makers have at last solved the problem. For Stafford’s is brilliant blue when you write and turns permanent black in a few hours.

The following item regarding Stafford’s Commercial Ink appeared in the June 16, 1917 edition of the “American Stationer and Office Outfitter.” I was attracted by the historical perspective it provides of the World War I era and will let you decide whether or not it’s true or just advertising in disguise.

Romantic Journey of Torpedoed Letter

The following letter was recently received by W.S. Stafford, President of S.S. Stafford, Inc., manufacturer of Stafford’s inks, etc., of 103 Washington Street, New York. The original letter is now at the New York office and establishes the fact that the permanent characteristics of Stafford’s ink have not been affected by the exigencies of the war.

Dear Sir: – It may interest you to know that I sent a letter to my daughter in England, bearing date, February 25, 1917. The letter with the rest of the mail went down on the “Laconia” which was torpedoed. Some of the mail bags were washed ashore with the wreckage. The letters then, which had legible addresses were forwarded on their journeys, mine reaching my daughter. The writing in the letter is blurred but readable – the envelope which she returned to me to see shows the address perfectly clear, the ink not even dimmed, although it had a bath in sea water.

The ink I used was Stafford’s Commercial Fluid which I bought at the White House, S.F.

I was so pleased to see the address looking perfectly good after such a test, that I thought I would let you know about it.

(The date given the letter mentioned in the story is actually the date that the Laconia was torpedoed and in 2008 the wreck of the Laconia was found 160 nautical miles off the coast of Ireland, so I’m leaning toward advertising in disguise.)

In the early 1920’s the company added stamp pads to their menu of inks. An introductory item appeared in the September, 1921 edition of “Walden’s Stationer and Printer”

The S.S. Stafford Company has recently started the manufacture of stamp pads on a strictly quality basis. Only the finest quality of felt blotting paper and nainsook enter into the manufacture of these pads, while the inks with which they are saturated are made with the finest dyes obtainable in a glycerine solution insuring the longest life possible.

As the use of fountain pens decreased, it was probably the addition of stamp pads that kept the company in business. They’re still listed  at their long time location (Office: 622 Greenwich and Factory: 609 Washington) in the 1960 Manhattan telephone directory.

According to his obituary, William S Stafford was still president of the corporation at the time of his death on November 6,1943. It’s not clear who ran the company after he passed away. One internet source mentions that Stafford’s was acquired by the R.T. French Company in the late 1970’s but I haven’t been able to confirm this.

Today 603 Washington Street appears to be the original building constructed by Stafford in 1887 (although states it was built in 1880) . It’s now a residential cooperative.


Currently 622 Greenwich Street is also a residential cooperative called “The Stafford.”

According to city it was built in 1881. It’s likely one of the three buildings purchased by Stafford when they consolidated in 1920.

The bottle I found is machine made with 8 oz. embossed on the shoulder. Most likely a bulk ink bottle, it resembles a labeled Stafford bottle for sale on the internet.


S. M. Bixby


The S. M. stands for Samuel Merrill Bixby. His company, S M Bixby & Co., started in 1860 and was in business for over 60 years. They manufactured ink and glue items but their main product was shoe blacking and polish.

The  February 7, 1920 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle featured S. M. Bixby & Co. in a series called “The Wonders of Brooklyn.” Much of the information it contains is the product of an interview with Theo W Rich, manager of Bixby’s export department at the time.

It was back in the year 1860 that Samuel M Bixby began to make shoe polish in the basement of his shoe store on 8th Ave., in old New York. At that time the people of the United States were mostly dependent on foreign-made shoe blackings, which were imported in large quantities. One that was quite popular was applied with a flat stick – one end embedded in the cork – and then rubbed furiously with a heavy brush to obtain a shine. The directions on another, a crumbly cake-like substance, urged our ancestors to “take a piece the size of a pea” with no hint of whether they had reference to petit-pois or marrow fats, and no distinction between sizes 3 1/2 B and 9 shoes. Were the members of the present generation compelled to use such stuff, after a taste of the niceties  of modern invention, the air would become blue with piratical execration.

The founder of our industry was bent upon improvement and uplift. The spontaneous popularity achieved by his product made his shoe business an affair of minor importance, and he forthwith engaged exclusively in the manufacture of shoe polishes in modest quarters at the corner of Washington and Dey Streets. After more than twenty-five years of steady increase in the business, a removal was made to a large factory building on Baxter Street near Canal where the output assumed such proportions that another removal became necessary.

It was then that the citizens of Brooklyn beckoned kindly, and we negotiated the purchase of this building, formerly a shoe factory, together with a large area of unimproved property adjoining it at the rear. This was in 1910.

The NYC directories confirm much of this story.

  • Between 1863 and 1865 Samuel M Bixby was listed at 475 Eighth Avenue with the occupation “shoes”
  • From 1867 up through 1886 the S.M. Bixby & Co. was listed with the classification of blacking. The address over this period was listed as either 74 Dey or 173 Washington (corner of Washington and Dey).
  • Between 1886 and 1888 their address changed to 194 Hester (corner of Baxter) and the business was listed there through 1910.

Kings Handbook of New York City, published in 1892, included a section on S.M. Bixby & Co which included a photograph and description of the Hestor Street operation.

The particular articles by which S.M. Bixby & Co. have won their reputation are “Three Bee” Blacking and “Royal Polish” the former a paste blacking for men’s boots and the latter a liquid dressing, for restoring the color and gloss to ladies’ and children’s shoes. The building in which these goods are manufactured is an imposing six-story structure, supplied with machinery and appliances necessary for the business, and is the largest one in existence devoted exclusively to the manufacture of shoe-blacking. It is located at 194 and 196 Hester Street, adjacent to the busiest part of Broadway, and one block from Canal and Centre Streets. The salesroom and offices of the company occupy a portion of the second floor, while the shipping department and stockrooms are on the main floor. The remainder of the space in this immense building is divided into various departments, where the compounding and putting up of the blacking is done. In all departments the manufacture is an interesting one, and furnishes employment to upwards of 150 hands. It is not alone the excellence of their blackings and dressings and the convenient and perfect form of putting them up, that have given S.M. Bixby & Co. the leading position they occupy today in their especial line, but their persistent and novel methods of making the merits of the goods known, and a display of an unflinching determination to be always abreast of the times.

Sometime around 1910/1911, the company moved to the Brooklyn factory which was located on 2nd Avenue at 45th and 46th Streets. In addition, they also utilized portions of two buildings in Bush Terminal for storage purposes. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle feature described the Brooklyn plant this way:

Equipped with electrical power, well-arranged mixing utensils and a labyrinth of labor-saving machinery, this plant has hummed its daily note of inspiration to its army of contented workers during the ten years that have elapsed since the Bixby organization made Brooklyn its home. The operation of the various mechanical departments make interesting moving pictures to which must be added the swish of steaming kettles, the rumble of the presses that stamp out the tin boxes, and the never ceasing jingle and rattle of glass bottles in which “Jet Oil” and “Royal Polish” for black shoes, “AA Brown for brown shoes and “Shu-Wite” canvas shoe cleaner are filled. Imagine , if you will, the filling of these bottles by an expert operator, whose cleverness enables her to pick up empty ones and remove those that have been filled at the rate of 34 to 36 per minute and meanwhile tell her coworkers of the fun she had at a dance the night before.

Samuel Bixby was the president of the company up until his death on March 11, 1912. His cousins, Samuel A. Bixby and Willard G. Bixby continued to run the company after his death. Both are listed as president at various times between 1912 and 1920.

Bixby was an innovative marketer and as far as I can tell, one of the first to create what we might call today a “rewards” or “incentive” program.” The program was described in the November 28, 1894 issue of the “Boot and Shoe Recorder”

A couple of years ago S.M. Bixby & Co., published a neat little book of “Home Songs” which at once became popular, for it contained a number of prime old favorites which our mothers used to sing. The plan was to send this book to any person who would send to them a label from a box or bottle of their blacking or dressing, and six cents. As an advertising scheme it was a most pronounced success, and numbers two, three and four followed. Each contained sixty-two pages, words and music of such songs as were worth singing, and societies, glee clubs and families sought and used them. Edition after edition has been printed since that time. The firm made special arrangements with shoe dealers who handled “Royal Polish,” “Three Bee Blacking,” and “Santinola” which enabled them to sell much more by offering these books as premiums, furnishing them with sample of the “Home Songs.”

In 1920 or 1921, the F.F. Dalley Corporation gained control of S.M. Bixby & Company. According to the September 23, 1922 issue of the American Investor:

The F.F. Dalley Corp’n was incorporated March 23, 1920, under the laws of New Hampshire, and began business Jan. 1, 1921. Through ownership of capital stock, this Corporation controls F.F. Daley Company, Inc., S.M. Bixby & Co., Shinola Company, Munroe Novelty Co., Thermokept Corporation, F.F. Dalley Co. of Canada, Ltd., and Morris Howard Realty Company.

At the time, the F.F.Dalley Company, S.M Bixby & Co., and the Shinola Co. were the largest shoe polish manufacturers in the United States. Later, in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, the names Bixby and Shinola  resurfaced as the “2 in 1 Shinola-Bixby Corporation.”

The last individual listing that I can find for S.M.Bixby & Co. is in the 1924 directory at the 2nd Avenue location in Brooklyn.

As far as I can tell, none of the Bixby buildings located in Manhattan still exist today. The former Washington Street/Dey Street intersection is now located within the new World Trade Center complex and no longer exists. The Brooklyn location on 2nd Avenue may still exist as 201 46th Street. It’s a five-story manufacturing building built in 1900.

I’ve found three different types of Bixby bottles over the years. One is their uniquely shaped bottle with a March 6, 1883 patent date embossed on the front and Bixby, with an oversized “X” embossed on the base.


Developed for liquid blacking and called “Bixby’s New Bottle and Combination Stopper for Sponge Blacking,” the reasoning behind its design was explained in an advertising card for Bixby’s “Royal Polish.”

The bottle has a broad base and will not upset easily; the mouth has a wide projecting flange, and an air chamber below to prevent the overflow of the liquid in taking out and putting in the sponge, which perfectly insures cleanliness.

I’ve found both aqua and brown versions of this bottle.

The second type is shaped like a rectangular medicine but with rounded sides and the third is a cone ink with Bixby embossed on the base. All are mouth blown.