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12/09/08 - Are We Entering a New Golden Age for Red Ink?

Watching the economic news one might think that we are entering a new golden age of red ink. This is probably not so, at least if the 1930s are a guide. There was similar speculation a mere seventy six years ago, as reported in Fortune in December 1932:

People have written asking why we haven't written about the prosperity that these times are bringing the makers of red ink, so we've looked into the matter. One maker had never thought about it but another was pretty sick and tired of answering jokes about his thriving on misfortune.

Well, there isn't any red ink prosperity. Quite the contrary. For the past three years sales have been falling off steadily and are still falling. It's the machine age, ink makers say. Companies use tabulating machines and bookkeepers haven't the time, nor the need, for ruling pretty red lines - which uses more red ink than the traditional noting of deficits. (Deficits, of course, are not the only items noted in red. Red ink is used to set off figures or identify a particular class.) Moreover, such great users of red ink, as shipping lines, who note Third Class registration in red, haven't had so many passengers in the past couple of years. And also, while there are a good many firms which have had to change to red ink for their income figures, there are - or were - also a good many firms, persistent users of red ink even in good times, which were so hard hit that they couldn't even afford to buy red ink and have gone out of business altogether.

Keywords: humor, fortune