Ink blotters were an absorbent paper used to blot the excess ink off paper and prevent smearing when using fountain pens. On the opposite side would be a picture or advertisement. Businesses gave them away to customers as free promotional items. The blank space on the front would be for the local shop to stamp their name and address. Advertising ink blotters were used from the 1900s through the 1940s until the ballpoint pen was invented.