|Abbott's ABD Malt, c. 1925.|
6 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches.
They are quaint reminders of a bygone era, a time when pens were dipped into an inkwell and, later, fitted with a cartridge or bladder "fountain" filled with ink. Writing was challenging; the ink could easily smear before it dried and it often left blotches on the paper. The excess ink required frequent blotting to prevent a mess; hence the necessity of ink blotters; heavy, highly absorbent papers.
Ink blotters had been around since the fifteenth century, the papers used by themselves or affixed by clips to a wooden block curved along its bottom to allow for rocking motion across the inked document, a more efficient and tidy manner than a flat block allowed. Used with a block, each was approximately 6 x 3 inches.
|Abbott Laboratories Ltd. Montreal., c. 1930.|
6 1/4" x 3 1/2 inches.
|Schering (Canada) Limited. Montreal, c. 1925.|
3/4 x 3 3/4 inches.
By the early twentieth century it became clear that these simple, blank blotting papers provided an excellent medium for advertising all manner of product and service; blotters were found in offices and homes, used daily and often by millions. Ink blotters provided advertisers with a huge potential audience at little cost for maximum exposure. By the 1920s-1930s promotional ink blotters were ubiquitous.
|Merck & Co. Inc. Rahway, N. J., c. 1925.|
7 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches.
|Swan-Myers Co. Montreal, c. 1930.|
5 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches.
|Schering (Canada) Ltd. Montreal, c. 1920s.|
6 1/4 x 4 inches.
For pharmaceutical companies, advertising via ink blotters allowed for an end-run around laws prohibiting advertising in standard media for prescription drugs, i.e. extracts of digitalis, phenobarbitol; pharmaceutical salesmen calling on doctors handed them out to promote their company's product. And they were widely distributed to heavily promote over-the-counter nostrums to the general public.
|Mistol. USA, 1925. |
6 1/4" x 4 inches.
|Rogerson Coal Co. Toronto, c. 1920s. |
6 x 3 1/2 inches.
Joy Coke - A High Grade Fuel.
|Swan-Myers Co. Indianapolis. Montreal/Toronto Distributor, c. 1920s. |
6" x 3 1/2 inches.
And, no surprise, sex was used to move the merchandise - even a commodity as bland as sand. This Mr. Sandman brought dreams guaranteed to keep a man awake and busy with his fountain pen, defying him to blot these sweet dreams out of his memory.
|"My [illegible] Shadow."|
|"I'm Putting on the Finishing Touch."|
|"Of course you have to use your imagination."|
Need insurance and bonding? Gance & Wonger insure that wangers will not wilt. A customer service call girl awaits your claim.
|"There must be something wrong with my line."|
Of course, after all the sex and drugs, you may require something to blot out the cost of excess. The following product provides gland treatment for sexual neurasthenia, aka the doused-fire down below, the withered stones, the weathered seed, and subsequent winter of our discontent. Trust Homovir to restore Man Virility.
|Anglo-French Drug Co., Montreal, c. 1920|
3 x 5 3/4 inches.
"Gland Treatment regulating nerve and essential power."
Ink blotters are about as ephemeral as ephemera gets. Never meant to be saved, they were frequently used and tossed out, literally throw-aways given away by the advertiser for promotional purposes. That any have survived is something of a miracle, more so than the advertising cookbooks we've previously written about on Booktryst.
Vintage ink blotters are a fun, inexpensive entry-point for collectors that capture an era in writing long gone within the context of American pop-culture of the early-mid twentieth century, graphically interesting and fascinating slices of history.
Images of drug ink blotters courtesy of David Mason Books.
Images of 40s pin-up ink blotters courtesy of Esnarf.com.
All blotters pictured are currently offered for sale by the above dealers.__________