A few weeks ago, some artifacts were recovered from the Brody-Emmons complex. These included a wide range of glass containers, as well as other finds. What is nice about finding early 20th century glass, is that there is a lot of information that can be recovered from the item. Unlike glass and metal today where paper labels alert the consumer on their purchase, many of the items are imprinted with their brand name and contents.
One of the finds was glass container with a bakelite (an early type of plastic) lid. Imprinted into the lid was “Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand, Made in USA, Milwaukee, WI” as well as a barely legible patent date and number. Research revealed that this type of inkstand was first introduced in 1907 by Gustav Sengbusch. In the patent he wrote that these inkwells were designed “designed for mounting in school desks and for like purposes.” Its not surprising then that this type of inkwell would be found in an area around MSU.
The story behind the Sengbusch Self Closing Inkstand is a classic invention tale. Gustav Sengbusch was hard at work as a book keeper in the early 1900’s. After taking hours to complete a single ledger page, his inkstand tipped and ruined the entire page. As a result of this event and his frustration he decided to design an inkstand that couldn’t be closed. It was this that led to the creation of the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company. The inkstands he designed were created to prevent tipping, allowed one hand access to ink, and prevented evaporation.
Every artifact that we find on campus has a story, and while it may not be as easy to dig up information we still learn more about the campus and community of MSU.
Cowell, W. 2009. An Inkwell and A Mystery. In The Pennant, Fall 2009: 10-11. Electronic Document. http://www.pencollectorsofamerica.com/pennant/FALL%2009%20PENNANT%20FINAL.pdf