The history of Higgins Ink is contentious and, across the US, ink aficionados argue that important details have been lost in the shifting sands of time. Intrigued? Read on to learn more...
Two inventors, both by the name of Higgins, have laid claim to the invention of a suite of inks. The first is Charles M. Higgins (1854-1929) who is generally credited as being the creator of “Higgins American India Ink”. He was the head of the Charles M. Higgins Company, an immigrant from Leitram, Ireland, who arrived in America in 1860. In 1875, he received a patent for a screw pegging machine and obtained a job with the Scientific News as a patent solicitor. In his 'spare time' he reportedly experimented with inks in his sister's kitchen in New York and it is as a hobbyist that he is said to have invented the Higgins India Ink and Eternal Black Ink. In 1880, Charles formed a company to sell and distribute his ink, which soon became the universal ink used around the world. The Higgins Ink Company went on to great success, ultimately being purchased by Sanford Ink, the owners prior to acquisition by Chartpak Inc. in 2008.
On the other hand, there is also the story of Rufus L. Higgins who may - or may not - have been related to Charles Higgins. The tale of Rufus is in some ways the quintessential tale of the American West. The first record of Higgins is in 1863 as the owner of a dry goods store in Virginia City, Nevada. His career as a store owner was somewhat checkered and involved shady partnerships, arson and eventual bankruptcy. Although he made part of his living through his own ink formulations, no patents for these products have ever been found...which would seem unusual. Questions remain regarding the apparent 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. Particularly as both events happened within a year of each other. Ink aficionados have asked whether the two men were related and wonder whether a depressed and insolvant Rufus moved to the East Coast and gave away the formula to Charles.
Certainly it is a mysterious coincidence of timing, product commonality and surname but it is perhaps a mystery to which we shall never know the answer...To investigate the historical documents we DO have available, simply click on any of the small images below!
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