The Noodler’s Cinematic Universe: Six Degrees of Baystate Blue

What do Baystate Blue, Bambi, kittens, and Smokey Bear have in common? Let’s find out!

The most infamous Noodler’s ink is Baystate Blue. It’s so infamous that it has its own Reddit user account. BSB is an intensely saturated ink that will stain whatever pen you put it in, and is water and forgery resistant. This ink has a higher pH level than other modern inks, and can only be mixed with other Baystate inks. I wondered why an ink like BSB exists, so I did some research and found that Baystate Blue is a recreation of a particular Carter’s ink from the 1940’s.

it’s so blue
Photo from munsonpens.wordpress.com

Carter’s Ink was based in Boston and was, at one point, the biggest ink manufacturer in the world. Starting in fall of 1941, Carter’s made an ink called American Blue. In the spirit of patriotism, American Blue was based on inks used in Colonial times. It was a vibrant blue, and the bottle had an eagle on the label. An ad for American Blue touts the oval shaped bottle as “streamlined” and “packaged in the mood of the times”. I’m guessing that the streamlining of the bottle has something to do with the lingering economic effects of the Great Depression. Perhaps the oval bottles used less glass but could hold the same amount of ink as their other bottles. Carter’s regular bottles were cube shaped like modern Sailor bottles, and had really neat labels:

Why can’t we have ink bottles like this now? Photo from munsonpens.wordpress.com

The link above is to a post on Munson Pens called “The Story That Your Ink Bottle Tells”, which takes a look at a promotional book for Carter’s of the same name. This post also looks at Carter’s ads and bottles. A Carter’s ad not included in that post is this one:

Kittens! This ad is from 1944, but there are several kittens ads dating back to 1943.

Carter’s kittens, because these inks are gentle as a kitten. This is a great ad, and the art was done by Albert Staehle. He did many advertising illustrations, as well as some Saturday Evening Post covers and some work for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Program. He is most known for art of various animals including dogs and Elsie the cow for Borden’s Milk.

In August of 1942 Disney released its masterpiece of animation, Bambi. It’s the story of a young deer growing up in the forest. During World War Two, the U.S Forest Service started using wildfire prevention campaigns as a form of propaganda. There were less men around to fight wildfires, and the government was actually concerned that the Axis powers would use wildfire as a mainland attack strategy. Because of Bambi’s hard-hitting message of conservation, Disney allowed for Bambi-inspired characters to be used in a 1943-44 Forest Service fire prevention ad for one year.

Around the same time as the above ad, the Forest Service ran a handful of fire prevention posters by WPA artists. The poster below was created by Albert Staehle, and seems Bambi-inspired as well. In 1944, the Forest Service needed a new animal mascot for when their license expired, so they asked Staehle to design a mascot. He created Smokey Bear, the American icon of the forest.

Poster from pre-August 1944 by Albert Staehle.
Smokey was born on August 9th, 1944.

If Bambi has a similar look to these WPA style posters, that’s because the look of the film was designed by a different WPA artist named Tyrus Wong. Wong’s art style was inspired by Chinese art from the Song dynasty. Bambi has a pretty naturalistic color palette, so I wasn’t sure if an intense blue like BSB could be found in the film, but it is:

The first frame is from a stylized fight scene, and is the closest shade to Baystate Blue. At the top of the second frame in the right hand corner, and in some spots in the stream, you can see BSB as well in its lighter shades. Bambi has lots of blue, but it’s either a darker blue or more of a blue-green.

Above are two of Wong’s works. On the right is a mural titled Dragon Chasing Pearl from 1941. This mural was for the Federal Art Program for a bank in Los Angeles. You can see shades of Baystate Blue on the dragon and in the clouds. On the left is concept art for Bambi, and you can see some BSB in the bottom right hand corner.

Baystate Blue writes silky smooth. I put this ink in a J. Herbin rollerball to test it out, and it’s actually a very nice rollerball ink. The Herbin rollerball needs a wet, lubricated ink to make writing with it at all pleasurable, and BSB does the job. I used a blunt-tipped syringe to fill an empty cartridge. I can normally do this without making a mess but this time I overfilled the cartridge and got ink on my fingers.

I also put Baystate Blue in a Kaweco Perkeo, which offers a much better writing experience than the Herbin rollerball. The tops of my hands are now dotted with blue ink, but I know it’ll come off with a lot of washing. The color of this ink reminds me of the bright blue ink that’s in Stabilo rollerballs, and is definitely unique among fountain pen inks. While I enjoyed using Baystate Blue, I most likely won’t purchase a whole bottle of it because of the staining issues.

The Noodler’s Cinematic Universe: Noodler’s Lermontov

You’ve heard of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now get ready for the Noodler’s Cinematic Universe (NCU). Nathan Tardif is a salty New Englander who makes inks that are as wet as a Nor’Easter and shade like a Cape Cod sunset. Tardif uses all kinds of historical and political references for his ink names and ink series, such as the Russian writers inks from a few years back. The references are so vast that Tardif has created an aura around each ink that’s filled with lore. Why does this ink have this name? Why this color? What do they know? Each ink has a story, and each story may or may not have a parallel in movies.

The first ink in the NCU is Lermontov. Lermontov is a blue-grey shading ink that is named after Mikhail Lermontov, a nineteenth century Russian romantic poet. Reading about him on Wikipedia, some of the themes from his work reminded me of Boris Lermontov, a character from the 1948 movie The Red Shoes. In this movie, there is a lot of the same shade of blue-grey that is Noodler’s Lermontov.

Mikhail Lermontov was a poet who has been said to be the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism. He only lived to be 26 years old, but had a prolific career before dying in a duel. His early works are romantic, and his later works are realist. There seems to be a theme throughout his personal life of suppressing any romantic urges out of fear of getting burned. In his working life, he also suppressed his romantic and fantastic urges in order to master his craft. Lermontov’s novel, A Hero of Our Time, has a self-destructive protagonist who keeps hurting those around him because he feels that he’s fated to act this way. As his life goes on, the protagonist grows more and more dissatisfied with his actions but hides his emotional turmoil from other people.

The Red Shoes is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, but takes place in the world of ballet. It’s about the conflict between artistic passion and the human condition. Boris Lermontov is the director of a ballet company in London whose passion and determination are so great that he doesn’t have room for emotions. He takes a ballerina named Victoria Page into his company, and wants to develop her into a prima ballerina. Here is a trailer:

Victoria is an excellent dancer who equates her desire to dance with her desire to live. Victoria proves herself as a dancer and rises through the ranks until the lead ballerina leaves to get married. Lermontov is angry and says: “You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never.” When a coworker tells Lermontov that he can’t alter human nature, he retorts that you can just ignore it. The subtext here is that Lermontov is repressing his own homosexuality. His only gratification is through controlling the ballet, and controlling people. Victoria becomes lead ballerina when Lermontov begins a production of the ballet of The Red Shoes. During rehearsal for the show, Victoria falls in love with the conductor for the ballet, Julian Craster. The show is magnificent, and the story of the ballet foreshadows the rest of the movie. For a scene of Lermontov describing the story, watch this video:

The relevant dialogue starts at 0:41.

The similarities between Boris Lermontov and Mikhail Lermontov and his work seem purposeful and uncanny, but what does this have to do with ink color? Here are two swatches of Noodler’s Lermontov:

This ink shades quite a bit, from navy to blue-grey. On Tomoe River, Lermontov sinks into the paper but still shades. Even with normal writing, the show-through is pretty bad with bleed-through to the back of the page in some spots. On Rhodia with a flex nib, it feathers quite a bit. It’s a wet ink that flows well out of most pens, but won’t dry quickly.

Take a look at the above photos, then look at all these screenshots where this blue appears in The Red Shoes:

I don’t know if the blue in this movie is why Nathan Tardif made Lermontov the color that it is, but the shades are pretty darn similar. I like this ink, and this exercise helped me like it even more. If you like this movie/ink crossover, let me know.