October 30, 2014

Caws and Effect

, the Caw’s Ink brochure poem.

        Back in 2003, I found a Caw’s Ink brochure that was reproduced in Ron Dutcher’s article about Francis Cashell Brown printed in the April 2004 issue of the hard-copy version of the Stylophiles magazine.  If you don’t have a copy of this magazine, you’re missing out on a real treat.  The brochure is a 7-panel, accordion-folding booklet printed on both sides, all done with a technique called white scratch card that yields images that look like engravings or intricate woodcuts.  Two of the panels on one side are the front and back covers.  Here are the two covers, but you’ll have to find the magazine to see the rest of the 14 panels.

        The other 5 panels on that side are taken up by cartoon advertisements for Caw’s Ink, all with racist and otherwise dubious and politically incorrect themes.  On the other side there are seven panels, each one dominated by one of these seven letters, C-A-W
’-S-I-N-K, ornately incorporated into images illustrating the text of the poem titled “Caws and Effect”, said to be written by Edgar Ape O., in imitation of the poem “The Raven” by Edgar A. Poe.  The only clue giving away the date of publication is the address of the company, which places it in the period between May 1884 and sometime in 1886.  Well, recently I ran across the same poem printed in The American Stationer, Apr 9, 1885, p.477, which could possibly help to put a more specific date, if not on the brochure, then at least on the poem.  There’s only one flaw in the rhyme scheme.  The word “accepted” has to be pronounced “axe-ape-ted”.  And ten years later, he was still using that title in the ad copy in his advertisements.
        I was also fortunate enough to have found about 8 or 9 Caw’s ink bottles.  Here’s a picture of one of my Caw’s ink bottles with the front side of the label prominently featured.  A while ago three Caw’s ink bottles showed up as one lot on Ebay.  This photo is interesting because it shows three distinctly different types of labels distinguished by the position of the crow’s beak, pointed up, straight level, and down.  I don’t know, yet, whether there is any chronological order to these 
three labels.
        And last of all, I
also found this publisher’s advertisement in an issue of The Illustrated War News, Apr 4, 1885, p.7, a newspaper that the Grip Printing & Publishing Co. put out.  The newspaper was started by this printing company solely to report on the second Metis Rebellion that happened in the early 1880’s in what was then still the North West Territories in the region surrounding the city where I now live.  A month later, Louis Riel, the leader of the Metis in their rebellion, was captured and brought to this city, or at least to the precursor of my city, to await transportation to prison and to his trial and to his execution.  As he waited, the English people of the small community came down to the river bank to gawk at the curiosity in their midst, the prisoner on the steamboat “The Northcote”.  He looked down at them and wrote in his diary very cryptically and with great poetic compression about the folly and the phoniness of their fancy clothes, fine carriages, canes, pipes of tobacco, and vain hair styles, such as Dundrearies and muttonchops, and their pretentious little houses with their Mansard roofs up on the river bank.  Basically he was saying, “L’enfer, c’est les Anglais”.  The Grip ad is done in almost the same style as the Caw’s brochure, and has a crow as the printer’s device, and is dated just a few days before the publication of the poem.  It’s just a coincidence.  And here’s an interesting children’s book from about 1848 also titled Caw! Caw!

George Kovalenko.