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Railroad Blotters

A Railroad Collectible for Any Budget

OK, so you like trains and railroad history. You want to start a collection of some kind, but what to collect. Railroad lanterns are nice, and there are some good buys at railroad shows and on auction sites, but it can still get pricey. (My personal opinion is that everyone should have one nice lantern and even use it.) Railroad china is in great demand, but many pieces do not even have the railroad logo on them, and there are many fakes out there. Only buy from a known and reputable dealer. Timetables are much less expensive, are not normally faked, and are filled with information on the railroad and points served. They can be hard to display though, and friends always want to "thumb through" them causing possible damage. How about collecting something that is colorful, easy to display, normally has great graphics and even pictures, and best of all, is down right cheap to get started in?

Railroad ink blotters fit the bill. Many can be had for a few dollars, some of the more obscure railroads or real fancy die cut ones can go in the $30.00 and higher range but not many. Let's take a look at just what these things are.

Back in the "olden days" ink needed time to dry and could be smeared easily if the paper used for writing was folded prematurely or covered by another sheet. For this reason, fresh writings were blotted by some means or allowed to dry before further handling. This seemed especially important for account books, where posting and drying were important factors in legibility. Although the earliest known blotters date back to the sixteenth century, blotters did not become widespread until the 1800s.

In the days of early fountain pens, you would dip the tip of your pen into a bottle of ink and before you started writing, you would touch the tip onto an ink blotter where any excess ink would run off. You could then start writing on your pad of paper until the ink ran dry. The process was then started over again. Ink blotters were made of thick absorbent paper, like a light porous cardboard.

Have you ever noticed when eating at a restaurant the various advertisements found on placemats at your table? This has been one creative way businesses can maximize their advertising dollars. In the 1920s and 1930s, a similar idea was used on something everyone had: ink blotters.

Here was fairly inexpensive way for the railroad to advertise to shippers, as well the general public. Typically about 4 by 8 inches in size, blotters were used to promote freight or passenger service and frequently provided information on specific trains or routes.

Now let's take a look at some examples and a slide show of my collection.

Please Note: I do not consider myself an expert on blotters or other railroadiana. I do not do appraisals, nor do I accept unsolicited items. It's a hobby and nothing more. Having said that, here are a some links to other railroadiana sites.

Railroadiana Online

Key, Lock and Lantern, Inc.

The Railroadiana Collectors Association, Inc.

National Association Of Timetable Collectors

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