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Carter's Harvest Brown


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Carter’s Havest Brown







I initially became acquainted with Carter’s inks after I tried a sample of Washable Blue. Unlike any other blue I had seen at the time, this blue had a darker-steely blue color. Most importantly it was washable. Pretty soon, I began to buy more blue, then blue-black, and purple, and now brown. Over the next several weeks, I will try to review these colors, and any more I find along the way. Carter’s, a Boston-based company, was once the largest ink manufacturer in the world. They made inks for other companies, most notably Rexall Drug store. At one point, they even made high quality pens (circa 1929). They diversified into mucilage, stamp inks, laundry inks, and felt tip permanent markers (Marks-A-Lot™). In 1975 they sold their business operation to Dennison, now Avery-Dennison, although some products, such as stamp pads still bear the Carter’s name. Fountain pen ink is no longer made by Avery-Dennison. In fact, Dennison destroyed all of the research Carter’s had accumulated over the past 100 years.


When it comes to fountain pen inks, Carter’s is most famous for its decorative cube-shaped jars featuring entertaining artwork (a gimmick now used by Noodler’s inks). These jars are a favorite among collectors. The cubes were designed to be inserted mouth-downward into Carter's ink-stand. As a collector, I try to find ones with inks still in them. In most cases the bottles are empty. Sometimes the ink has dried to powder and can be reconstituted. Rarely, full bottles turn up. If you plan to purchase vintage ink, beware that some bottles contain sludge and fungus. This ink should never be loaded into a fountain pen.


Harvest Brown was produced sometime after 1945. It was preceded by Beaver Brown, and Sunset Brown. Apparently the beaver never caught on, and a new rodent was found for it’s label; this time Mr. Cute-and-Furry Squirrel. Actually, I suspect that changes to the formulation were made to improve flow and fastness, and the name was changed to reflect reformulation.




Cost: The ink originally sold for 10¢ for a 2 ounce bottle. Typically these bottles now sell from $4 to $25, depending upon the condition of the box container.




Color and Character: My original bottle had never been opened, but nonetheless, some of the water had evaporated. I had difficulty removing the cap, eventually soaking the lid in warm water to remove it. Before filling up the bottle with water, I tried the ink as it was, and was quite pleased with the results. I then added just a little water to keep the ink-color a bit saturated. It nonetheless flows very well. The color is a nice chestnut brown, very reminiscent of dried oak leaves. It is a wet ink, not chalky. There is plenty of shading, but it’s also adequately saturated. There is very little bleeding of the ink through even the cheapest papers, and almost no feathering at all. It’s only drawback is that the ink is not even remotely waterproof. But that’s a small advantage in the event of spills. The dry-time is reasonable recognizing that this is a vintage ink. (One of the worst inks in terms of drying-time is the 1930s version of Carter’s blue-black, which takes almost 30 seconds to dry without smearing; thus making this ink almost unusable.)




Conclusion: Carter’s Harvest Brown is a pleasant vintage ink produced around 1945. It handles very well in both vintage and modern pens and very enjoyable to write with. In my work, I am often required to write on cheaper grades of paper, and it seems Harvest Brown was made for cheap paper. The color is not a rich red-brown; instead, it reminds me more of dead oak leaves. For those individuals who seem to prefer writing in rainstorms, this ink leaves much to be desired. The cute, furry rodent on the bottle, however, makes up for any shortcomings in the ink’s performance.



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  • lovemy51


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  • ThirdeYe


Oh, how I wish I had handwriting like that! Where did you learn that style?


Great review, too.


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These Carter's ink reviews that keep popping up are a real treat! Love the label on this one. Fits the situation perfectly. Color is a magnificent soft brown. :thumbup:

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That's a lovely shade of brown, the sort of brown that I'd be looking at. Your review is most informative, and very well-written, it's like a little throwback to some different ear- I absolutely love such reviews. It's unfortunate what happened to the company, I wish it were around. The fact that it is usable on cheap paper is great, many inks need to be matched with only the best quality paper and that takes a lot away from the economy of using a fountain pen. Thanks a ton for this great contribution to the ink review section. :vbg:





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  • 1 month later...

I bought a bottle of this ink from an ebay seller, just 1/2 full, I had made the purchase knowing my son liked brown ink and could decant his Noodlers Walnut into it, liking the square bottle with the little squirrel. Before giving it to my son I used a bit of the ink and loved it! I began looking for another bottle and today I scored an unopened bottle from ebay, my winning bid $13.55 + $4.95 shipping. I think that's a reasonable price for the pleasure of writing with this vintage ink and I am anxious for it arrive.

"Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars" ~Henry Van Dyke

Trying to rescue and restore all the beautiful Esties to their purpose.

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Love the review, but I would assume ground squirrels where used, I would think Grey Squirrels would alter that rich brown color :) Maybe a red suirrel got in the mix?

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i know i posted here before, but... man that ink is right down pretty!!!! again, nice handwriting too!

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That was a fun and informative review, thanks! I have an old empty bottle of the Rexall stuff. I forget how much I paid for it, but I know it wasn't much. Maybe a dollar or two at an old Rexall pharmacy that was turned into an antiques store. It's called "Graph Ink" and is (was?) blue-black.

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That is a wonderful shade of brown. Is there a approximate colour by Diamine or Noodler's?



Just eyeballing it, I'd wager Noodler's Kiowa Pecan or their standard Brown are the closest matches. There's also Noodler's Beaver but I think that's too reddish. Diamine doesn't seem to have a matching brown, but colorwise I think their Dark Brown or Burnt sienna might work out.

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I love Carter - their inks and bottles and boxes. Thanks.

We can trust the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. - Immanual Kant

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Hi T.P.,


I love how the "S" in "Carter's" is made miniscule for effect. Personally, I'm not a fan of squirrels. I do love the review and beautiful handwriting samples. Thank you for sharing.

A man's real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.

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  • 1 year later...

W (aka Toaster Pastry)


I opened a bottle of this today to use, and when searching for a review, found this excellent one, which doesn't surprise me, given your use and interest in vintage inks. So far, mine is doing fine, and no water needs to be used. Thanks, in arrears, for the excellent review and for promoting the use of these old inks, which still are very useful....even if endangering some wildlife.



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