From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ink Wells and Fountain Pens

Another Trip Down Memory Lane...



When I was a little girl during the late 50's and early 60's, I went to a one-room country school. (To be specific, I attended Duff Valley District 4 in Rock County, Nebraska.)

By the time I was in school, bottles of ink were not used much by students anymore, but we sat in old desks that had inkwells built into their desktops. (An inkwell is a cup that is designed to hold a bottle of ink and keep it from spilling while a writer is using it.) Since we didn't use them much for ink, the inkwells made a handy place to keep some Kleenex or to hold wadded-up papers until you took them to the wastebasket.

Still, ink bottles weren't obsolete yet. A bottle of ink and a pen to use with it could be bought at any dime store. I had a few of them and had fun playing with them. The pen had a rubber bladder inside it that was loaded with ink by operating a little lever on the side of the pen as you dunked it into the ink bottle. The filling procedure made a small interesting gurgle.

I was never able to keep my hands clean while messing around with an ink bottle and a pen of this sort. I got a big ink stain on a page in my Social Studies book during my ownership of one manually loaded ink pen. I accomplished this behind the privacy shield of my raised desk lid because my teacher had already told me to quit playing with the pen and ink.

All of us students liked fountain pens. A fountain pen got its ink from a plastic cartridge that was a little smaller in size than a triple-A battery. An ink cartridge was installed by pressing the top end of the pen's nib into one end of it, then putting the cartridge-with-nib into the body of the pen. The cartridges usually leaked ink at the point where they were punctured by the pen nib. The ink oozed out as you wrote, and soon the side of your finger had a big inkstain on it -- black, red, blue, or green depending on the color of ink you had loaded.

With either type of pen, it was hard not to get inkblots on your papers. You had to keep the pen from touching the paper at any time you weren't writing. You had to be careful about shaking the pen because drops of ink would fly from it. And you had to be careful not to smear the ink by laying your arm across it or folding the paper before it dried.

We students made plenty of messes with ink, but Duff Valley's teachers had a long history of ink accidents that they couldn't deny. The bottoms of the wooden drawers in the teacher's desk had many blots and stains from years of leaky pens and tipped-over ink bottles.

My memories of using pen and ink and my admiration of people who do nice lettering are the reasons I enjoy an occasional visit to NIBLOG - the letterer's blog.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.