Posted 5 years ago
Hmmm ... yet another vintage inkwell for my desk. (I’m amazed how this sub-collection is slowly growing and starting to crowd out my work laptop.) It was acquired in February while we were wandering around Florida’s gulf coast ... after all, who wouldn’t want to briefly get away from really cold upper midwest weather at some point.
Anyhow, as far as inkwells go it is large at 5½” in diameter by 4” tall. Being marked “Made by Marshall Field & Co.” (a Chicago company) also made it interesting. Yet it was the overall design, size and condition that made it attractive; it has a lot of presence.
The entire piece is beautifully made and a fine patina has developed over the years. The deeply sculpted lid depicting two horses and riders has a Greek or Roman fresco feel.
And what makes this a doubly interesting piece is discovering what lies beneath the lid. Instead of the usual glass cone or cup shaped insert, within is a sophisticated inkwell designed and patented by Gustav Sengbusch. In other words, the Marshall Field bronze is actually a decorative case housing a rather ugly yet effective glass and hard rubber ‘inkstand’.
Sengbusch invented and patented his famous “Self-Casing Inkstand” in 1903 and set up a company, the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Co., in Milwaukee, WI. Sengbusch’s improvement to ordinary inkwells was to add a floating stopper that kept the ink clean (no dust or dirt) as well as preventing accidental spilling. This particular inkstand has a 1914 patent date and it appears to be a less common No.62 model. By 1920 Sengbusch was advertising 115 different designs and sizes!
Anyhow, my desk is now getting a bit crowded with this addition.