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Guide to the Charles M. Higgins papers 1978.114

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Sativa Peterson

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 17, 2011
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Finding aid revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Nicholas Pavlik.  , September 30, 2011

Biographical Note

Charles M. Higgins (1854-1929) was a prominent ink manufacturer and creator of Higgins American India Ink. He was the head of the Charles M. Higgins Company, manufacturers of the drawing ink he invented.

Born in County Leitrim, Ireland in 1854, Higgins arrived in America at the age of six. The family settled in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, where Higgins continued to reside for the rest of his life at 101 Prospect Park West.

Higgins attended school until the age of nine. He was a self-taught draftsman and in his early years he was employed at Scientific News. It was here that he saw the need for good-quality draftsmen and artists' ink. His experiments led to the development in 1880 of a black writing ink. The Charles M. Higgins Company began behind his house at 101 Prospect Park West and eventually moved to 271 9th Street in Brooklyn. John E. Gavin, also of Brooklyn, was a long standing associate of Higgins in the development of the ink business and other enterprises.

In 1899, Higgins married Alexandra Fransioli. They had three children: a son, Tracy Higgins, and two daughters, Lisbeth Higgins Hamm and Rachel Higgins Everson.

Higgins was an early opponent of compulsory vaccination, thinking it harmful. For many years he was the treasurer of the Anti-Vaccination League of America. He wrote many pamphlets on this subject, including Horror of Vaccination (1920).

In 1900, Charles M. Higgins wrote an open letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle on "Justice for China," at the time of the Boxer Rebellion.

In 1908, Higgins was a leader in the effort to rehabilitate the Brooklyn Borough Bank, which had been founded in 1832 and was located on Court Street. He opposed the receivership being placed in the hands of an "up-stater" and was himself appointed as a joint-receiver.

As one of the founding members of the Kings County Historical Society, Higgins fought to have the Gowanus site of the Battle of Long Island restored, especially the old Gowanus Stone House. Higgins's money also enabled the Kings County Historical Society to donate the Altar to Liberty statue on Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery.

Higgins was a member of many clubs and served on the Boards of many public service-oriented institutions, including the Kings County Historical Society, the Brooklyn Chamber of Congress, the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society, the Anti-Vaccination League of America, the Manufacturer’s Association, the Montauk Club, the Riding & Driving Club, the Crescent Athletic Club, the Brooklyn Club, the St. George’s Golf Club, and the Huntington Bay Club.


  1. "C.M. Higgins Dies; Ink Manufacturer." The New York Times, October 23, 1929.
  2. "Chas. M. Higgins, Manufacturer, Dies at Home." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 22, 1929.