Mount Vernon is open daily. Learn about our policies for bags & face coverings

In the 18th century people figured out ways to make their own ink using things found in nature. Berries, acorns, beets, charcoal, and walnuts could all be used to make ink!

Supplies

Supplies

  • 1 Cup ripe berries (such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)
  • 1 Teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • Red or blue food coloring (optional)
  • Strainer
  • Small bowl
  • Small jar with lid
  • Spoon

Step 1 - Strain the Berries

  • Place a few berries into a strainer.
  • Hold the strainer over the mouth of a small bowl.
  • Use the back of the spoon to crush the berries so that the juice drips into the jar.

Step 2 - Extract the juice

Empty the strainer and continue crushing the berries a few at a time until they have all been squeezed into juice.

Step 3 - Add vinegar

  • Add the vinegar and salt to the berry juice and stir until it dissolves.
  • Transfer the mixture to a small jar.

Step 4 - Add coloring (optional)

If the ink is too pale, add a drop of red or blue food coloring.

Step 5 - Use the ink

Enjoy! Try writing your name by dipping a toothpick into the ink. 

Please note: Berry ink spoils quickly, so make only a little at a time. Keep the ink jar tightly covered when you are not using it.

What is Berry Ink?

What is Berry Ink?

During the 18th century, the best ink to have was Iron Gall Ink. It was made of iron, tree galls (a knot formed when a certain type of wasp burrows into a tree), and gum Arabic. Most of these ingredients had to be imported, and as a result, ink could be very expensive. Powdered Iron Gall Ink was the most popular form of ink because the person using it could mix up exactly the amount they needed.

If Iron Gall Ink was not available, people figured out ways to make their own ink using things found in nature. Berries, acorns, beets, charcoal, and walnuts could all be used to make ink!

Buy Tickets What to Do Calendar Shop Restaurant Donate Membership
Estate Hours

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

iconDirections & Parking
buy tickets online & save