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?

Waterman’s Ink

“A drop of ink may make a million think,” is an old saying, but oceans of ink would not bestir the gray matter of the most brilliant if it were not made intelligible by a pen.

Eighteen years ago an enterprising man awoke to the fact that there was a great future for the device that should serve as the connection between ink and paper.

That man was L. E. Waterman and the device was the “Waterman Ideal Fountain Pen.”

These words prefaced a story featuring Lewis Edison Waterman and his fountain pen business that was published in a 1902 edition of a publication called “The World’s Book.”

That’s not to say that Waterman invented the fountain pen. In fact, according to a feature story on Waterman in the June 11, 1921 edition of the American Stationer, by the early 1880’s the market was flooded with stylographic pens however most sputtered, leaked and didn’t work on a consistent basis. What Waterman did was fill the need for a reliable fountain pen. The story went on to describe the basics of his invention.

The first fountain pen he made had a wooden barrel and ink feed, but he soon discovered that the acids in the ink rapidly corroded the barrel and clogged the feed. Further experiments with various materials taught him that rubber was the only substance that would give entire satisfaction. After deciding on hard rubber as the material from which to construct the barrel and feed of his fountain pen, Waterman cast about in search of a point that would take the place of the common steel pen, which he found practically useless when adapted to fountain pens. Numerous experiments with different metals convinced him that gold possessed all the qualities he desired in a flexible, non-corrosive point.

His pen, called the “Ideal Fountain Pen,” consisted of only four parts as demonstrated by this schematic that appeared in the June, 1898 edition of the New England Stationer and Printer.

The initial patent was granted on February 12, 1884 however it was a year earlier, while the patent was still pending, that he first started in business. According to a story in the April 29, 1897 edition of the American Stationer, he sold his first pen on July 11, 1883.

That first year in business was described in the 1902 World’s Book story.

Steel pens and quills were good enough for most of the people of eighteen years ago and Mr. Waterman’s success was of the slow and steady sort. At first the founder of the business made a dozen pens, then went out and sold them pen by pen, when another dozen was made and peddled – he was the factory, the office force and the selling department.

At that point, the entire operation was conducted utilizing a desk in the back of the Owl Cigar Store located in the Commercial Advertising Building at the corner of Fulton Street and Nassau Street in lower Manhattan. Then sometime in 1884 he formed a business relationship with a bookbinder named Asa Shipman. Together they established the Ideal Pen Company, initially located at Shipman’s 10 Murray Street address. An advertisement published in the June 5, 1884 edition of the Christian Union named both Waterman and Shipman’s business, Asa L. Shipman’s Sons, as proprietors.

While this was the earliest advertisement I could find, it was an advertisement published later that year in”Century” Magazine that history credits with jump-starting the business. According to the June 21, 1921 American Stationer story:

It was in 1884 that the Waterman fountain pen came to the attention of the magazine advertising solicitor, who suggested to the inventor that he run a quarter-page advertisement of his pen in the “Century,” which magazine he represented. But Waterman did not have the money to pay for the advertising. Then the magazine solicitor did an interesting thing. He was so convinced of the commercial possibilities of the fountain pen that he proposed to Waterman to insert his advertisement and claim payment only if the ad produced a fair amount of orders.

The first advertisement introducing the Waterman fountain pen to the world appeared in the “Century” magazine for November, 1884.

The June, 1921 American Stationer story went on to say:

Prior to that time, Waterman had sold about 300 of his pens by personal solicitation and over the counter of his little stand. Within a few weeks after the first modest advertisement appeared a large number of orders were received – in fact, so large a number that the inventor was able to negotiate a loan of five thousand dollars with which to contract for additional advertising and have the pens made and delivered. 

Sometime in 1885, Waterman moved the Ideal Pen Company to 157 Broadway, where the company was first listed in the 1885/1886 N.Y.C. directory. At the same time Shipman remained listed as a bookbinder at 10 Murray Street, so it appears that Waterman’s relationship with Shipman was short-lived. Century” advertisements in the Spring, 1885 reflect this change, no longer including any mention of Shipman or his company.

This undated photograph included in the December 21, 1921 edition of Printers Ink was likely taken at the 157 Broadway location. That’s Waterman seated in the center of the room.

Two years later, in November, 1887, the business incorporated under the name L. E. Waterman Company with an initial capital of  $10,000. Waterman was named as the first president and he continued in that capacity until his death in 1901 at which time his nephew, Frank D. Waterman, assumed the presidency.

By 1890 this December 23 Christmas advertisement in the New York World made it clear that their pen was becoming widely available in the New York City area.

As the last decade of the 1800’s progressed the company’s production was increasing exponentially as evidenced by these statistics included in a 1914 American Stationer story.

In 1888, nine thousand pens were sold; seven years later, the number of orders had reached sixty-three thousand; in 1900, the business reached two hundred and twenty-seven thousand sales…

In an effort to keep up with this growth, the facilities at 157 Broadway were constantly expanding.  Originally utilizing 300 square feet of space, by 1897 they occupied the entire 2,700 square foot ground floor with a salesroom, offices and a shipping department. A story in the April 29, 1897 American Stationer provided this verbal tour of the sales room as it was readied for opening after another expansion.

When ready for occupancy the visitor upon entering the store will find himself in a room 15 feet wide and 60 feet long, done in oak. On the right hand will be a counter 16 feet in length, on which will be two 8-foot showcases for “trying” the pens on and which will be filled with “Ideal” fountain pens. Between them will be placed one of the latest cash registers manufactured by the National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio. At the end of this counter will be located one or two roll-top desks, and back of it will be the repair counter and benches and also the cabinets for holding the stock. At the further end of the store there will be a trade reception room of the dimensions 15 by 20 feet, which will be nicely furnished and carpeted, and supplied with conveniences for writing, etc. It is said that this will be the largest store in the world devoted exclusively to a fountain pen business.

The June 24, 1897 edition of the American Stationer provided a view of the storefront.

At the same time their facilities were growing, so was their selection of pens. A March 25, 1897 advertisement with the heading “Points Worthy of Consideration” laid out the different types available at the time.

According to the advertisement:

Our Gold Pens are solid Gold, as fine Gold as the best, so fine that they are not corrodible by ink or otherwise, and as fine as they can be made and have sufficient alloy to make them strong, elastic and durable. The points are diamond-pointed with the best iridium, and ground by the most skilled workmen to have a variety of points, some smooth, like ordinary Gold pens, and some to “feel” the paper like steel pens, so that all can be suited with their favorite points. They are made in five sizes, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. The assortment includes long, medium and short nibs, and fine, medium, coarse and stub points, with varying degree of flexibility to suit any hand.

While most pens were marketed to the general public at a cost as low as $2.50, some were certainly aimed at the rich and famous. This description of their exhibit at the Paris Exposition included in the March 26, 1900 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described several of their high end items.

The exhibit is located on the center aisle and contains about six hundred pens of the finest mountings and workmanship.

While the majority of the pens shown are of the company’s standard make, there are some wrought with exceptional elegance and beauty. Among these there are three gold barreled, jewel mounted pens, one having thirty-six jewels and valued at $250. Two others are studded with eighteen diamonds each and are valued at $125 and $175 respectively.

By 1902 the space at 157 Broadway had been maxed out, dictating a move to new quarters a block to the north at 173 Broadway.  According to the 1902 World’s Book story:

In a decade the quarters of this thriving concern have been enlarged ten times until it has become necessary to move into a larger building, the greater part of which will be devoted to the sale, assembling of parts, and repair of injuries of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pens. From the desk room in the back of a cigar store, the business has grown until six stories are needed to contain but a portion of it.

An item announcing Waterman’s move to their new quarters was published in the May 26, 1902 edition of the New York Sun.

By then, according to the World’s Book story the company was producing a half million fountain pens per year and their office and sales staff had reached seventeen and one hundred respectively. Accompanying the story were photographs of their new building as well as the sales room.

Located at the corner of Broadway and Cortlandt Streets in lower Manhattan, the intersection was sometimes referred to as “the busiest corner in the world.” It also became known as the “Pen Corner,” courtesy of Waterman’s advertisements. One depicting “Pen Corner” appeared in the April 25, 1908 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Beneath the image was the following paragraph:

Mid Castles in the Air

The Waterman Building (31,000 square feet floor space) remains the only home in this vicinity devoted entirely to any one business enterprise. It is surrounded by business quarters of nearly 100,000 people.

A blow-up, looking west from Broadway, depicts the Waterman building on the right side of the intersection.

No manufacturing was done at their Broadway location. According to the 1902 World’s Book story, this was accomplished at two factory locations. One was located in Seymour Connecticut, the other on Rose Street in lower Manhattan.

At the factory at Seymour Conn., where the hard rubber barrels are made, one hundred men are employed in shaping rubber into the polished black and mottled tubes for Waterman pens. The barrel here passes through forty-nine processes, so many, in fact, that it would seem impossible to bring the completed pen within reach of the ordinary purse.

The story included a photograph of the factory’s interior and a July 16, 1910 edition of the American Stationer included an exterior view.

The Manhattan factory was actually leased floor space in the Rheinlander Building located at the intersection of Rose Street and Duane Street. It’s here that the pens themselves were put together, including the making of the pen’s gold nib.

This leads to a piece in the 1902 World’s Book story regarding the handling of the gold and iridium used to make the nib and tip. It’s well worth a read!

Of the making of the gold nib alone an article as long as this might be written; – sixty to seventy hand processes are necessary to produce each gold pen. The material used is gold of 14-carat fineness tipped with iridium which is nearly worth it’s weight in diamonds. The material handled, in fact, is so precious that extraordinary precautions are taken to preserve every minute particle – the clothes of the operators are the property of the company and are periodically reduced to ashes for the sake of the gold dust they carry; from the water used in washing the hands and faces of the men $90 worth of gold is taken every month.

The iridium used for the tip was even more valuable than gold. According to another American Stationer story, this small bottle of iridium was valued at $1,000 in the early 1900’s

By 1915 the company had constructed two buildings in New York City that were fully dedicated to the manufacture of their fountain pens. The first, opened in September, 1910, was located on Fletcher Street in lower Manhattan.

The opening was covered in a September 10, 1910 story in the Brooklyn Times Union. The story makes it clear that all the manufacturing operations were encompassed under one roof.

On September 10, New York became possessed of one more great manufacturing plant, when the L. E. Waterman Company officially opened their mammoth factory at 34-40 Fletcher Street for the manufacture of fountain pens.

Saturday afternoon between 1 o’clock and 6 the factory was thrown open to the public, and with the aid of a large staff of competent guides were taken through the different departments of the plant and shown how a sticky piece of rubber and a bit of gold are made up into one of the most useful articles of the day.

When one enters the building they are first taken to the basement, where is located the power and machine plants, and where also are the smelting and refining furnaces. Here the crude or semi-crude rubber is refined to the stage where it can be moulded and turned into the handles of the pens; next one is taken to the ink department, which though it is only a subsidiary manufacture is an industry in itself and occupies two floors. Through the printing and case department you next go, but it is not until you reach the gold and silver mounting department that you begin to realize to what extent the finer art of the pen making is carried; here the beautiful filigree work, seen so much on the higher priced pens, is done and in this branch are employed some of the most skillful gold and silversmiths to be found in America.

The rubber turning department is on the next floor. The rubber handles are not finished here, but are taken to the assembling room where they are finished by hand.

Having seen in a general way the operations required to make a fountain pen, you leave the building by way of the shipping room, where tier after tier of boxes, filled with pens, were being sent to all parts of the world and every state of the Union.

The second New York City factory, also in lower Manhattan, was located at 163 Front Street and opened in May, 1915. A rendering of the factory as well as a construction photo appeared in the American Stationer that year.


With the opening of this second New York City factory and another in Connecticut,  the company was now operating a total of five; two in New York, two in Connecticut and another in St. Lambert, Canada.

By then, according to a May 22, 1915 American Stationer story, the business was capable of producing 2,500,000 pens per year and the different types available were almost endless.

As a starter, Mr Waterman made one type of pen in two prices and four different points which would mean a line of eight different types of pens. At the present time, we make four active lines, regular type, self-filling type, safety type and the pocket type, in four different style holders which would be sixteen different kinds of pens; multiply this by ten different points would mean 160 distinct type of pens. If you care to multiply these figures by the three different length of nibs which we make regularly you would have 480 different kinds of pens, and if you would add to this the different mountings and special points and the other styles such as 2, 32, 42, 52 jointless holders, you will have about 2,000 different kinds carried by the company.

The 1915 American Stationer story went on to say that the company had evolved into a world wide operation.

We have branch stores in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco in this country, and which are the company’s headquarters in New England, the Central West and the Pacific Coast; also branches in Canada, the principal cities in Europe, South Africa, Australia, South America, etc.

A photograph in the February 13, 1915 edition of the American Stationer  showed their London headquarters on Kingsway. Similar to New York City,  its location was described as “The Pen Corner.”


In August, 1916 the company announced that their New York City headquarters was moving to 191 Broadway.

The new location was located within the same block on Broadway as their present location. The company simply moved from the south end of the block at Cortlandt Street to the north end at Dey Street, now calling the Dey Street intersection “The New Pen Corner.” The New York Tribune reported the opening in their May, 1, 1917 edition.

A new “Pen Corner” was opened yesterday, fittingly enough on the eighty-fourth anniversary of the birth of the man who became a fountain pen manufacturer after unpleasant experiences with a leaky specimen, and on the thirty-fourth anniversary of the founding of the great industry that grew from his decision.

The fountain pen has passed through many stages since L. E. Waterman turned out his first 200 and the changes are reflected in the showcases of the new store at Broadway and Dey Street. Seven thousand persons dropped in yesterday to admire the gold and silver mounted pen of 1917 and compare it to the dull looking specimens of the “first two hundred.”

There is a pen to fit every hand, a point to suit every preference in the new “Pen Corner,” for its walnut cabinets have a capacity of 30,000 and the variety is no less than 5,000. The cabinets are arranged in an ellipse in the exact center of the store. Hidden behind them are the repair men; in front of them is an unbroken showcase displaying pens that run the scale in design between extreme simplicity and ultra ornateness.

This photograph, showing a view of the salesroom appeared in the June, 1917 edition of Architecture and Building.

The several floors above the salesroom were utilized by the wholesale and export departments and executive offices.

It appears the company’s peak occurred sometime in the early 1920’s when they constructed what was called at the time, the “world’s greatest fountain pen factory,” in Newark New Jersey.

The plant was described in the March 26, 1921 edition of the American Stationer.

The largest and most modern factory building in Newark, New Jersey, was recently completed and occupied by the L. E. Waterman Company, manufacturer’s of Waterman’s Ideal Fountain Pen. It occupies the equivalent of one city block, on Thomas Street, numbered from 140 to 170, extending back a considerable greater distance in two other immense buildings, with a paved court accessible from a broad driveway and exit on either side of the main entrance to the Administration Building, situated on Thomas Street.

The new building – vastly larger than the others – will have a production of approximately 10 million pens a year, and with full equipment of modern and newly devised machinery, makes it the world’s greatest fountain pen factory.

By then the manufacture of ink was well entrenched in the company’s business as evidenced by this story written just as their Newark factory opened. It appeared in the March 5, 1921 edition of the American Stationer.

One of the largest and most modern ink plants in the world making fountain pen ink exclusively is that of the L. E. Waterman Company. The plant occupies a portion of the mammoth new Waterman factory on Thomas Street, Newark, N. J., and is the first department to be placed in full operation there. It is devoted entirely to the manufacture of Waterman’s Ideal ink, supplying the millions of users of Waterman’s fountain pen with the ink best adapted to its well known writing qualities. Inks of the standard colors are produced, namely blue-black, green, red, violet and jet black. The output is 4,000 gallons a day, and this is being steadily increased by the addition of new equipment.

So that leads to the question: “When did Waterman add the manufacture and sale of ink to his fountain pen business?”

An unscientific study of his advertising reveals that this likely occurred in 1890. Prior to that Waterman advertisements focused on the fountain pen, sometimes adding this phrase:

It uses any good ink and holds enough to write continuously from 10 – 25 hours.

It was in 1890 that advertisements associating the Waterman name with an ink product began to appear in the American Stationer. One of the first was an August 28 ad for “Waterman’s Fountain Pen Ink Filler.” Aimed at the retailer, it was certainly introductory in nature.

It is for the interest of every dealer to present this new article to the attention of his customers.


it insures the use of good ink in their fountain pens and in other ways makes their care less troublesome

An August 17, 1907 advertisement  in the American Stationer described their ink and its packaging:

It is made in all of the following colors: Blue-Black, Combined (for writing or copying), Black, Red, Green and Violet and each one of these colors are made in all sizes (2-ounce up to a quart).

The two ounce size was pictured in the advertisement.


The ink was also packaged and sold in “desk filler” and “traveler’s filler” styles.

The desk filler…consists of a solid rubber stopper and dropper in a bottle, holding enough ink for about 50 fillings.

The travelers’ filler consists of a solid rubber stopper and dropper, in a bottle holding sufficient ink for 12 fillings, which is held firmly in place by a spring in a neat wooden box.

The advertisement pictured both in a display stand.

Subsequently, the April 17, 1915 edition of the American Stationer announced the addition of several newly patented style bottles.

One, a pour out bottle was made in two sizes, pint and quart. It was initially advertised on the cover of the American Stationer’s March 27, 1915 edition.


The other was an oddly shaped 2 ounce bottle marketed for use with their self-filling pen.

By the time they moved into their new factory  Waterman’s Ideal Ink was being marketed hand in hand with their fountain pens. Their message to retailers was: “One Sells the Other.”

Waterman continued  the United States arm of their business well into the 1950’s however, during this time competition from companies like Parker and Schaefer was taking its toll. Ultimately, in 1958, the company was acquired by Bic. The acquisition was covered in the Boston Globe on November 24, 1958.

Sale of controlling interest in the Waterman Pen Co., one of the oldest pen makers in this country, to Marcel L. Bich of Paris, France was announced today.

The company said a new line of inexpensive ball point pens will be featured in the new operation of the organization.

The company’s plant here will continue its present output along with the added production of an initial output of 100,000 ball point pens a day. One hundred additional employees will be required.

The new firm will be called the Waterman-Bic Pen Corp., Inc.

This August 19, 1959 New York Daily News advertisement made it clear that Waterman-Bic served as the French corporation’s manufacturing arm in the United States.

The hand-pleasing personal writing quality of Bic pens has conquered five continents in 10 years . Every day of the year, one-and-a-half-million people buy a Bic pen. Now Bic pens are manufactured in America for you by Waterman. Quick, get a Bic!

Operating solely out of Seymour Connecticut, the other Waterman plants had apparently been sold off at some point. The company remained in Seymour until 1963 when they moved the operation to Milford, Connecticut. The move was reported in the June 19, 1963 edition of the Bridgeport Post.

The United Aircraft Corporation has sold its Wiley Street plant and office building to the Waterman-Bic Pen Corporation, a subsidiary of Societe Bic, a French corporation, it was learned today.

Bic plans to move from its present plant in Seymour after alterations have been made to the Wiley Street building formerly occupied by the Norden division of United Aircraft.

Societe Bic has 18 plants and produces 2,400,000 pens a day. The Connecticut plant now located in Seymour and scheduled to move here is its only facility in the United States.

According to an April 21, 1971 story in Binghamton New York’s Press and Sun Bulletin, Bic dropped the Waterman name at that time. The story not only marked the end of the Waterman name in the United States, but could serve as an obituary for the fountain pen as well.

Bic to Drop Waterman Name, Marking End of Writing Era

The Waterman-Bic Corporation of Milford has announced it will change its name to the Bic Pen Corporation, effective May 1.

“We hope to bring about a stronger product identity between the Bic ball pens and the consumer,” Robert P. Alder, Bic president said.

The disappearance of the Waterman name, in effect, reflects the demise of the fountain pen as an everyday, functional writing instrument, the announcement said. The Waterman Pen company was founded in 1884 and was a pioneer in the development of the fountain pen as well as sales leader during the height of its popularity.

The Waterman-Bic corporation was formed in November, 1958, and since then has grown to dominate the American writing instrument business with a 64 percent share of today’s retail market, its announcement reported. Bic makes more than 2,000,000 ball pens a day from its highly automated plant facilities in Milford – all in the 19 to 49-cent price ranges. The company has not made a fountain pen in 10 years.

The Waterman name continued in Europe and you can still get a Waterman Pen to this day.

I’ve found two types of Waterman ink bottles over the years. The first, machine made, is an example of their standard 2 ounce bottle. It closely resembles the one included in the 1907 advertisement presented earlier in this post.


The other, mouth blown, appears to be an example of their traveler filler. It’s faintly embossed “Waterman’s Ink” on its base.


On a final note, Waterman’s Manhattan factory building on Front Street, opened in 1915, remains to his day. Google Earth reveals that it’s currently under renovation.


In response to the initial version of this post I was contacted by a researcher named Daniel Kirchheimer who has unearthed compelling evidence that the original version of Waterman’s pen was actually the invention of a man named Frank Holland. His impeccable research can be found on the following link and is well worth the read. It even includes an appearance by the world renowned author Mark Twain.

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 three Carter’s Ink bottles over the years, all mouth blown. All three appear in the 1907 Des Moines Drug Company’s 1907 Catalog that references them as the 2oz Cylinder, 2oz Cone and 2oz Panel respectively.


This 1880’s advertisement for Carter’s”Koal Black Ink.” depicts the 2oz Cylinder with a small wire corkscrew at the top.

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.