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Carter's Ink Company Collection

 Collection
Identifier: CHC031

Collection Description

This collection contains ephemera relating to the Carter’s Ink Company that was collected by John Hinkel, a “labeled master inks” collector from Missouri. The Carter’s Ink Company, a nationally-prominent manufacturer of inks and office supplies produced various forms of marketing tools in order to distribute information to both the general public, merchant sellers, and employees. The company’s products supplied a wide scope of locations, both within and outside of the United States. Its transcontinental reach is reflected in some items within the collection, namely the advertising materials.

This collection consists of approximately 130 items in 8 folders of advertisements, internal corporate documents, and external publications. The independently produced advertisements range from cardstock illustrations, postcards, bottle-shaped adverts, a calendar, and a dictionary. Other advertisements are incorporated in larger magazine or newspaper publications. The bulk of the corporate documents concern information pertinent to general workers, including employee rules, as well as the official company newsletter. Other items include product catalogs, price guidebooks, and pocket pamphlets for sellers and buyers.

Dates

  • 1909-1976

Language of Materials

Material is in English.

Access

Collection is available for research under the CHC rules of use.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives.

Historical Note

The Carter’s Ink Company was established in the late nineteenth century but was rooted in an earlier endeavor by William Carter, a wholesale paper dealer based on Water Street, Boston. In 1858, Carter created Carter’s Combined, a small writing and copying ink venture. After the Civil War, he and his relative, John W. Carter, expanded the business with a third business partner and salesman, James P. Dinsmore. They added a separate office on Broad and Congress Streets in Boston as well as a detached firm, Carter, Dinsmore, & Co. The firm relocated to Batterymarch Street after the Boston Fire of 1872 with a subsequent move to Columbus Avenue at a later date.

The late-nineteenth century brought major administrative and organizational changes to the business, instigated by James P. Dinsmore’s retirement in 1888 and John W. Carter’s unexpected death. In 1895, John W. Carter died by drowning; prior to his death, he married Helen Burrage Carter (d. 1934) in 1873. They had two sons who worked for the family business: Philip W. Carter and president Richard B. Carter. In 1910, the Carter’s Ink Company relocated to a new facility on First Street in Cambridge. An L-shaped four-story building designed by Densmore & LeClear, it was positioned across Athenaeum Street from Ginn & Co.’s printing and publishing plant. The new automated plant facilitated an expansion of the business so that by 1930 it became one of the biggest ink manufacturers in the country. It even had a branch in Montreal, Quebec. The Montreal branch was established by William Carter’s son, Edward (1839-1891). The company also added a manufacturing unit located at 18 Ames Street in Cambridge.

The prominence of the company was associated with its production of iron-gall, blue-black permanent ink. This type of ink is made of iron salts and tannin suspended in a colorless liquid. The components react with oxygen and create the blue colorant. Over time, the blue fades and the iron-gall develops into its permanent black form. In the 1890s, the company expanded its product list to include Photography Paste with other items following suit.

Carter’s Ink Company was also a major participant in local Cambridge activities-- especially sports-- after its relocation to the city in 1910. Starting around 1920, it participated in the Cambridge Industrial Athletic League. The league members competed in bowling, track, swimming and diving, shot put, baseball, and basketball. They often placed at the local Y.M.C.A. and the group had supplementary leagues, including: the Cambridge Municipal Baseball League and Cambridge Industrial Bowling League, two of the most popular sports. Additionally, the company formulated a War Savings Society during WWI and it was a member of the Kendall Square’s Manufacturers’ Association. To give back to the community, the Carter’s Inc Company dedicated a rooftop clock to Cambridge in 1926. It was the second largest illuminated clock in New England at the time.

To encourage sales, Carter’s Ink Company created many imaginative marketing tools and advertising stratagems. The items in this collection are of high graphic quality and reflect the advanced design characteristics of their period, although some of the promotional material has not transitioned well into the modern age. For example, a figure called the Inky Racer was the mascot of the company’s erasing solution. These racist depictions do not reflect the views of the Cambridge Historical Commission. The marketing and advertising materials are significant for their associations with a major national industry and for the high quality of the commercial artwork and graphic designs they contain.

Carter’s highlighted its corporate history and the general history of ink through its pamphlet publications. It published the book “Little Known Boston” in 1927 which sketched points of interest in Boston. The illustrations were drawn by Francis Hight and the effort was promoted by the company’s advertising manager, Fletcher W. Taft.

The Carter’s Ink Company’s success waned through the second half of the twentieth century. It witnessed an employee strike in October 1965 of undetermined cause. In 1976 it was purchased and incorporated into the Dennison Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Mass.

Resources consulted:
  1. A.N. Murray. Our Neighbors at Kendall Square. Cambridge: The Murray Printing Company, 1922.
  2. Cambridge Historical Society, “Carter’s Ink,” Industry in Cambridge, 2012.
  3. Cambridge Public Library's Historic Cambridge Newspaper Collection.

Extent

1.6 linear feet (1 flat file box)

Abstract

The Carter’s Ink Company, a nationally-prominent manufacturer of inks and office supplies produced various forms of marketing tools in order to distribute information to both the general public, merchant sellers, and employees. Its transcontinental reach is reflected in some items within the collection, namely the advertising materials. This collection consists of approximately 130 items in 8 folders of advertisements, internal corporate documents, and external publications. The independently produced advertisements range from cardstock illustrations, postcards, bottle-shaped adverts, a calendar, and a dictionary. Other advertisements are incorporated in larger magazine or newspaper publications. The bulk of the corporate documents concern information pertinent to general workers, including employee rules, as well as the official company newsletter. Other items include product catalogs, price guidebooks, and pocket pamphlets for sellers and buyers.

Collection Arrangement

This collection is arranged into three series comprised of Advertising materials; Guidebooks; and Internal publications and memos. Each series is further divided by intended use and format type. The arrangement hierarchy expresses this organization:
  1. Series I: Advertising materials
  2. Series I, Subseries I: Card ads and mementos
  3. Series I, Subseries II: Magazine and newspaper ads
  4. Series II: Guidebooks
  5. Series II, Subseries I: User publicity
  6. Series II, Subseries II: Merchant guides and catalogs
  7. Series III: Internal publications and memos
  8. Series III, Subseries I: Worker guides and memos
  9. Series III, Subseries II: Inklings newspaper

Processing and Arrangement Note

The original order of the collection mainly reflected the material type and size of the items. This organization was generally upheld except for some outlier items, such as some pocket-sized catalog pamphlets.

Additionally, during the physical processing of the collection, improper plastic encasements were removed and replaced. Additional plastic protectors were added to secure the structural integrity of any items deemed fragile.

Physical Location

Collection is stored on-site

Provenance

Ongoing donation by John Hinkel, April 2018. John Hinkel is a “labeled master inks” collector from Missouri.

Related Materials

For more information on the Carter’s Ink Company, see the Cambridge Industry and Business -- Manuals and Promotional Materials (1916-1965) subseries of Series V: Published Materials in the Cambridge Ephemera Collection, CHC002.

Processing Information

Processing and finding aid by Brittany Fox, September 2019.

Encoded by: Brittany Fox, July 2020.
Title
Inventory of the Carter's Ink Company Collection, ca. 1909-1976
Author
Processing and finding aid by: Brittany Fox, September 2019; machine-readable finding aid by: Brittany Fox, July 2020.
Description rules
Finding Aid Was Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives Repository

Contact:
831 Massachusetts Avenue
2nd Floor
Cambridge Massachusetts 02139 US
617-349-4683