A Dictionary of Arts: Indigo.

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


This invaluable blue dye-stuff, for which no tolerable substitute has been found, was known to the ancients as a pigment under the name of indicun, whence its present denomination. In modern Europe, it first came into extensive use in Italy, but, about the middle of the 16th century, the Dutch began to import and employ it in considerable quantities. Its general introduction into the dye-houses of both England and France was kept back by absurd laws, founded upon an opinion that it was a fugitive subtance, and even prejudicial to the fibre of wool. See DYEING, p. 413.

The plants which afford this dye-drug grown in the East and West Indies, in the middle regions of America, in Africa, and Europe. They are all species of the general Indigofera, Isatis and Nerium.

The following are cultivated: Indigofera tinctoria affords in Bengal, Malabar, Madagaskar, and the isle of France, and St. Domingo, an article of middling quality, but in large quantity. The indigofera disperma, a plant cultivated in the East Indies and America, grows higher than the preceding, is woody, and furnishes a superior dye-stuff. The Guatimala indigo comes from this species. Indigofera Anil grows in the same countries, and also in the West Indies. The Indigofera Argentea, which grows also in Africa; it yields little indigo, but of an excellent quality. Indigofera Pseudotinctoria, which is cultivated in the East Indies, furnishes the best of all: the Indigofera Glauca is the Egyptian and Arabian species. There are also the cærulea, cinerea erecta, hirsuta, glabra, and several others. The Nerium tinctorium of the East Indies affords some indigo; as does the Isatis tinctoria, or Woad, in Europe; and the Polygonum tinctorium.

The districts of Kishenagar, Jessore, and Moorshedabad, in Bengal, ranging from 88° to 90° E.L. and 22&frac;° to 24° N. L., produce the finest indigo. That from the districts about Burdwan and Benares is of a coarser of harsher grain. Tyroot, in lat. 26°, yields a tolerably good article. The portion of Bengal most propitious to the cultivation of indigo lies between the river Hoogly and the main stream of the Ganges.

In the East Indies, after having ploughed the ground in October, November, and the beginning of December, they sow the seed of the indigo plant in the last half of March and the beginning of April, while the soil. being neither too hot nor too dry, is most propitious to its germination. A light mould answers best; and sunshine, with occasional light showers, are most favorable to its growth. Twelve pounds of seeds are sufficient for sowing and acre of land. The plants grow rapidly, and will bear to the cut for the first time at the beginning of July, nay, in some districts, so early as the middle of June. The indications of maturity are the bursting forth of the flower buds, and the expansion of the blossoms; at which period the plant abounds most in the dyeing principle. Another indication is taken from the leaves; which, if they break across, when doubled flat, denote a state of maturity. But this character is somewhat fallacious, and depends upon the poverty or richness of the soil. When much rain falls, the plants grow too rapidly, and do not sufficiently elaborate the blue pigment. Bright sunshine is most advantageous to its production.

The first cropping of the plants is the best; after two months a second is made; after another interval, a third, and even a fourth; but each of these is of diminished value. There are only two croppings in America.

Two methods are pursued to extract the indigo from the plant; the first effects it by fermentation of the fresh leaves and stems; the second, by maceration of the dried leaves; the latter process being most advantageous.

1. From the recent leaves. - In the indigo factories of Bengal there are two large stone-built cisterns, the bottom of the first being nearly upon a level with the top of the second, in order to allow the liquid contents to be run out of the one into the other. The uppermost is called the fermenting vat, or the steeper; its area is 20 feet square and its depth 3 feet; the lowermost, called the beater or beating vat, is as broad as the other, but one third longer. The cuttings of the plant, as they come from the field, are stratified in the steeper, till this be filled within 5 or 6 inches of its brim. In order that the plant, during its fermentation, may not swell and rise out of the vat, beams of wood and twigs of bamboo are braced tight over the surface of the plants, after which water is pumped upon them till its stands within three or four inches of the edge of the vessel. An active fermentation speedily commences, which is completed within 14 or 15 hours; a little longer or shorter, according to the temperature of the air, the prevailing winds, the quality of the water, and the ripeness of the plants. Nine or ten hours after the immersion of the plant, the condition of the vat must be examined; frothy bubbles appear, which rise like little pyramids, are the first of a white colour, but soon become gray-blue, and then deep purple-red. The fermentation is at this time violent, the fluid is in constant commotion, apparently boiling, innumerable bubbles mount to the surface, and a copper-colored dense scum covert the whole. As long as the liquor is agitated, the fermentation must not be disturbed; but when it becomes more tranquil, the liquor is to be drawn off into the lower cistern. It is of the utmost consequence not to push the fermentation too far, because the quality of the whole indigo is deteriorated; but rather to cut it short, in which case there is, indeed, a loss of weight, but the article is better. The liquor possesses now a glistening yellow colour, which, when the indigo precipitates, changes to green. The average temperature of the liquor is commonly 85° Fahr.: its specific gravity at the surface is 1.0015; and at the bottom 1.003.

As soon as the liquor has been run into the lower cistern, ten men are set to work to beat it with oars, or shovels 4 feet long, called busquets. Paddle wheels have also been employed for the same purpose. Meanwhile two other laborers clear away the the compressing beams and bamboos from the surface of the upper vat, remove the exhausted plant, set it to dry for fuel, clean out the vessel, and stratify fresh plants in it. The fermented plant appears still green, but it has lost three fourths of its bulk in the process, or 12 to 14 per cent. of its weight, chiefly water and extractive matter.

The liquor is the lower vat must be strongly beaten for an hour and a half, when the indigo begins to agglomerate in flocks, and to precipitate. This is the moment for judging whether there has been any error committed in the fermentation; which must be corrected by the operation of beating. If the fermentation has been defective, much froth rises in the beating, which must be allayed with a little oil, and then a reddish tinge appears. If large round granulations are formed, the beating is ccontinued, in order to see if they will grow smaller. If they become as small as fine sand, and if the water clears up, the indigo is allowed quietly to subside. Should the vat have been over fermented, a thick fat-looking crust covers the liquor, which does not disappeat by the introduction of a flask of oil. In such a case the heating must be moderated. Whenever the granulations become round, and begin to subside, and the liquor clears up, the beating must be discontinued. The froth or scum diffuses itself spontaneously into separate minute particles, that move about the surface of the liquor; which are marks of an excessive fermentation. On the other hand, a rightly fermented vat is easy to work; the froth, though abundant, vanishes whenever the granulations make their appearance. The colour of the liquor, when drawn out of the steeper into the beater, is bright green; but as soon as the agglomerations of the indigo commence, it assumes the colour of Madeira wine; and speedily afterwards, in the course of beating, a small round grain is formed, which, on separating, makes the water transparent, and falls down, when all the turbiity and froth vanish.

The object of the beating is three-fold; first, it tends to disengage a great quantity of carbonic acid present in the fermented liquor; secondly, to give the newly developedindigo its requisite dose of oxygen by the most extensive exposure of its particles to the atmosphere; thirdly, to agglomerate the indigo in distinct flocks or granulations. In order to hasten the precipitation, lime-water is occasionally added to the fermented liquor in the progress of beating, but it is not indispensable, and has been supposed capable of deteriorating the indigo. In the front of the beater a beam is fixed upright, in which three or more holes are pierced a few inches in diameter. These are closed with plugs during the bating, but, two or three hours after it, as the indigo subsides, the upper plug is withdrawn to run off the supernatant liquor, and then the lower plugs in succession. The state of this liquor being examined, affords an indication of the success of both the processes. When the whole liquor is run off, a laborer enters the vat, sweeps all the precipitate into one corner, and empties the thinner part into a spout which leads into a cistern, alongside of a boiler, 20 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 3 deep. When all this liquor is once collected, it is pumped through a bag for retaining the ikmpurities, into the boiler, and heated to ebullition. The forth soon subsides, and shows an oily lookin film upon the liquor. The indigo is by this process not only feed from the yellow extractive matter, but is enriched in the intensity of its color, and increased in weight. From the boiler the mixture is run, after two or three hours, into a general receiver called the dripping vat, or table, which, for a factory of twelve pairs of preparation vats, is 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 3 feet deep; having a false bottom, 2 feet under the top edge. This cistern stands in a basin of masonry (wade water tight with Chunam hydraulic cement), the bottom of which slopes to one end, in order to facilitate the drainage. A thick woollen web is stretched along the bottom of the inner vessel, to act as a filter. As long as the liquor passes through turbid, it is pumped back into the receiver. Whenever it runs clear, the receiver is covered with another piece of cloth to exclude the dust, and allowed to drain at its leisure. Next morning the drained magma is put into a strong bag, and squeezed in a press. The indigo is then carefully taken out of the bag, and cut with a brass wire into bits, about 3 inches cube, which are dried, in an airy house, upon shelves of wicker work. During the drying, a whitish efflorescence comes upon the pieces, which must be carefully removed with a brush. In some places, particularly on the coast of Coromandel, the dried indigo lumps are allowed to effloresce in a cask for some time, and when they become hard they are wiped and packed for exportation.

From some experiments it would appear that the gas disengaged during the middle periof of the fermentation is composed in 100 parts of 27.5 carbonic acid, 5.8 oxygen, and 66.7 azote; and towards its end, of 40.5 carbonic acid, 4.5 oxygen, and 55.0 azote. The fermenting leaves apparently convert the oxygen of the atmosphere into carbonic acid gas, and leave its azote; besides the quantity of carbonic acid which they spontaneously evolve. Carboretted hydrogen does not seem to be disengaged. That the liquor in the beating vat absorbs oxygen from the air in proportion as the indigo becomes flocculent and granular, has been ascertained by experiment, as well as that sunshine accelerates the separation of the indigo blue. Out of 1000 parts of the fermented liquor of specific gravity 1.003, the blue precipitate may constitute 0.75 of a part. Such a proportion upon the great scale is however above the average, which is not more than 0.5, When lime water is added, and extractive matter is thrown down, which amounts to from 20 to 47 parts in1000 of the liquor. It has a dark brown tint, a viscid appearance, an unpleasant smell, and a bitter taste. It becomes moist in damp air, and dissolves in water without decomposition. It is precipitated by lime, alkalis, infusion of galls, and acetate of lead. All indigo contains a little lime derived from the plant, even though none has been used in its preparation.

2. Indigo from dried leaves. - The ripe plant being copped, is to be dried in sunshine from 9 o'clock in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, during two days, and trashed to separate the stems from the leaves, which are then stored up in magazines till a sufficient quantity to be collected for manufacturing operations. The newly dried leaves must be free from spots, and friable between the fingers. When kept dry, the leaves undergo, in the course of 4 weeks, a material change, their beautiful green tint turning into a pale blue-gray, previous to which the leaves afford no indigo by maceration in water, but subsequently a large quantity. Afterwards the product becomes less considerable.

The following process is pursued to extract indigo from the dried leaves. They are infused in the speeping vat with six times their bulk of water, and allowed to macerate for two hours with continual stirring till all the floating leaves sink. The fine green liquor is then drawn into the beater vat, for if it stood longer in the steeper, some of the indigo would settle among the leaves and be lost. Hot water, as employed by some manufacturers, is not necessary. The process with dry leaves possesses this advantage, that a provision of the plant may be made at the most suitable times, independently of the vicissitudes of the weather, and the indigo may be uniformly made; and moreover, that the fermention of the fresh leaves, often capricious in its course, is superseded by a much shorter period of simple maceration.

The process for obtaining indigo from the Nerium is altogether the same, but hot water has been generally applied to the dried leaves. For woad, hot water must be employed, and also lime water as a precipitant, on account of the small proportion of indigo in the plant. Dilute muriatic acid is digested upon the woad indigo to remove the lime, without which no dye could be precipitated. According to the warmth of the summer and the ripeness of the plant, from 2 to 5 ounces of indigo may be obtained from 100 pounds of the dried woad, or upon an average 4 ounces to the hundred weight.

The indigo found in European commerce is imported from Bengal, Coromandel, Madras, the Mauritius, Manilla, and Java and the Eastern hemisphere; from Senegal, Caracass, Guatimala, Brazil (South Carolina and Louisiana in small quantity), and formerly from the West India islands, especially St. Domingo. Its quality depends upon the species of the plant, its ripeness, the soil and climate of its growth, and mode of manufacture. The East Indian and Brazilian indigo comes packed in chests, the Guatimala in ox-hides, called surons.

The organ which affords the indigo is confined entirely to the pellicle of the leaves, and exists in largest quantity at the commencement of maturation white the plant is in flower. The indigofera is remarkable for giving a blue tinge to the urine of cows that feed upon its leaves.

According to some manufacturers, the plants be cut down in dry weather, an hour or two before sunset, carried off the filed in bundles, and immediately spread upon a dry floor. Next morning the reaping is resumed for an hour and a half, before the sun acts too powerfully upon vegetation; and the plants are treated in the same way. Both cuttings become sufficiently dry by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so as to permit the leaves to be separated from the stems by thrashing. They are now thoroughly dried in sunshine, then coarsely bruised, or sometimes ground to powder in a mill, and packed up for the operations of manufacture.

In the spring of 1830 I subjected a variety of specimens of indigo to comparative analyses, by dissolving a few grains of each in strong sulphuric acid, diluting the solutions with an equal volume of water, and determining the resulting shade of colour in a hollow prism of plate glass, furnished with a graduated scale. The following are the results, compared to the shade produced by a like weight of absolute indigo.

I. East India Indigos; prices as at the last October sales.

No. | Price. s d | Real Indigo in 100 parts. | Characters by the Brokers
1 | 3 9 | 42 | Broken, middling violet, and coppery violet spotted.
2 | 3 6 | 56.5 | Ditto, a little being coppery violet and copper.
3 | 3 3 | 46.0 | Ditto, middling red violet, dull violet and lean.
4 | 4 3 | 54.5 | Large broken, and square, even middling red violet.
5 | 4 2 | 75.0 | Much broken and very small, very crumby and limy, good violet.
6 | 4 9 | 60.0 | Square and large broken, ½ middling violet, and ½ good coppery violet.
7 | 5 3 | 70.0 | Large broken, very good; paste a little limy, good violet.
8 | 6 6 | 60.0 | Square and large broken, soft, fine paste, fine violet.
9 | 6 0 | 66 2/3 | Square, ditto, good red violet.
10 | 7 0 | 75 | Square, ditto, fine purple and blue.
11 | 2 3 | 37.5 | Middling ordinary Madras.
12 | 3 6 | 60.0 | God Madras.
13 | 4 3 | 58.0 | Very fine ditto.
14 | 2 0 | - | Low, pale Oude.
15 | 2 4 | 24 3/4 | Middling, ordinary Oude.
16 | 3 3 | 54 | Good Oude.
17 | 1 9 | 29 | Lundy, very low quality.

II. American Indigos; wholesale prices at present. (March, 1830.)
Indigo | No. | Price | Parts in 100
Caraca flor. - - | 1 | 6 0 | 54½
Guatimala - - | 2 | 5 0 | 33%frac12;
- | 3 | 3 2 | 19
- | 4 | 4 6 | 32½
- | 5 | 5 4 | 50
Guatimala | 6 | 5 0 | 50
- 7 | 5 3 | 35
- | 8 | 4 8 | 46
- | 9 | 4 8 | 33
- | 10 | 5 4 | 50

Properties of Indigo. - It possesses a dark blue color, passing into violet-purple, is void of taste and smell, dull, but by rubbing with a smooth hard body, it assumes the lustre and hue of copper. It occurs sometimes less and sometimes more dense apparently than water, which circumstance depends upon its freedom from foreign impurities, as well as upon the treatment of its paste in the boiling, pressing, and drying operations. It is insoluble in water, cold alcohol, ether, muriatic acid, dilute sulphuric acid, cold etherous and fat oils; but boiling alcohol and oils dissolve a little of it, which they deposit on cooling. Creosote has the property of dissolving indigo.

Indigo is a mixture of several dye-stuffs, and other substances. Berzelius found in it a matter resembling vegetable gluten or gliadine, a brown, red, and blue pigment, besides oxide of iron, clay, lime, magnesia, and silica.

1. Indigo gluten or gliadine is dissolved along with the calcareous and magnesian salts by acids. If the powder be treated with dilute sulphuric acid, if the solution be saturated with carbonate of liime, evaporated to dryness, and its residuum treated with alcohol; the solution thus formed leaves, after being evaporated, a yellow transparent extract, easily soluble in water, more difficulty in acid liquids; showing that acids extract only a portion of the gliadine from the indigo. It yields, by dry distillation, much ammonia, in fetid oil, and comports itself in other respects like vegetable gluten.

2. Indigo-brown occurs in combination with lime, as also with vegetable acid in considerble quantity, and more abundantly in the coarser sorts of indigo than in the finer. Indigo purified by acids is to be treated with hot strong caustic ley, which dissolves the indigo-brown; the liquid part of the mixture passes with difficulty through the filter, is black-brown, opaque, and holds some indigo-blue in solution, or diffused in fine powder. The alkali being neutralized with acetic acid, the liquor is to be evaporated, and alcohol poured on the residuum, whereby the alkaline acetate is dissolved out from the brown.

This pigment is a dark brown, almost black, but is not yet entirely deprived of the the other constituents of indigo. It is nearly tasteless, is combustible, affords, by dry distillation, ammonia and fetid oil, forms with acids combinations hardly soluble in water, with alkalis soluble ones, but with earths hardly soluble. Lime possesses the property of precipitating the indigo-brown completely from its alkaline solution. Chlorine occasions a a pale yellow of brownish precipitate, which consists of indigo brown and muriatic acid, but causes no further change. By drying, it becomes again dark colored. Indigo-brown seems to exist also in woad.

3. Indigo-red, or more properly red resin of indigo. This may be obtained by boiling alcohol of sp. grav. 0.830 upon some indigo which has been previously treated with acids and alkalis; for the red substance is hardly soluble in cold alcohol. The solution is dark red, opawue, and leaves, by distillation, the indigo-red in the form of a black-brown powder, or a glistening varnish, slightly soluble in alcohol and ether. Alkalis do not dissolve it, but concentrated sulphuric acid forms with it a dark yellow dye, from which water causes no precipitation; wool extracts the colour from the acid solution, and becomes of a dirty brown hue. Chlorine does not seem capable of destroying the color, for though it makes it yellow, it becomes as dark as ever on being dried. Indigo-red melts with heat, burns with a bright flame, affords, when heated in vacuo, first a white crystalline sublimate, and then unchanged indigo-red. That white matter is changed by nitric acid into indigo-red.

4.Indigo-blue, or pure indigo, remains, after treating the indigo of commerce with dilute acid, alkalis, and alcohol; it retains, however, still traces of the matters thereby extracted, along with some earthy substances. In order to procure indigo-blue in its utmost purity, we must deoxidize them above blue residuum, thus form colorless indigo, which again acquires a blue colour from the air, and constitutes the pure pigment. For this purpose the above moist indigo is to be mixed with slaked lime, green sulphate of of iron, and hot water in an air-tight matrass. The indigo when deoxidized by protoxide of iron being soluble in lime-water, the clear yellow solution is to be poured off, and exposed to the air.. The indigo absorbs oxygen, and becomes again blue. By digestion with dilute muriatic acid the foreign matters are dissolved, and may then be washed away with distilled water, from the absolute indigo.

The indigo-blue obtained in this manner has a cast of purple red, displaying the characteristic copper lustre in a high degree, but in powder, it is blue. It is void of taste and smell, is by my experiments of specific gravity 1.50, affords at 554° Fahr. a purple vapour, and sublimes in shining purple scales, or slender needles in an apparatus open to the air, whereby, however, much of it is destroyed. Some carbon remains after the sublimation. A quick heat produces most sublimate. These needles contain a brown oily matter, which may be dissolved out by means of hot alcohol. Their specific gravity is 1.35, according to Mr. Crum. The sublimate from common indigo does not contain any oil, but some indigo-red and the above white crystalline matter. According to Mr. Crum, indigo-blue consists of carbon, 73.22; oxygen, 12.60; azote 11.26; hydrogen, 2.92; while according to Dumas, crystallized indigo consists of carbon, 73.26; oxygen, 10.43; azote, 13.81; and hydrogen, 2.50; precipitated indigo consists of carbon 74.81; oxygen, 7.88; azote, 13.98; and hydrogen, 3.33; sublimed indigo, of carbon, 71.71; oxygen, 12.18; azote, 13.45; and hydrogen 2.66, My own analysis afforded - carbon, 71.37; oxygen, 14.25; azote, 10.00; hydrogen, 4.38. In another analysis of Dumas, 3.93 parts of hydrogen were obtained. Hence we must infer that considerable differences exist in the composition of indigo in its purest state. Reagents act upon it much as upon common indigo. Chlorine, iodine, and bromine convert into a reddish brown soluble substance. Concentrated sulphuric acid, especially the smoking or anhydrous of Nordhausen, dissolves indigo-blue with the disengagement of heat, but it makes it suffer some modification; for though it retains an intense dark blue colour, it has become soluble in water, and may be blanched by light, which does not happen with indigo itself. Nitric acid destroys indigo-blue, forms indigotic (carbazotic) acid, carbonic acid, artificial resin, and bitter principle.

Indigo-blue may be reduced by substances oxidized, with the co-operation of alkalis or alkaline earths; for example, by such substances as have a strong affinity for oxygen, and are imperfectly saturated with this principle, as the sulphurous and phosphorous acids and their salts, the protoxides of iron and manganese, the protoxide salts of tin, and the corresponding compounds of chlorine, as the proto-chlorides of tin and iron; and the solution of the former in potash. When in these circumstances, in the presence of alkali, a deoxidation or reduction of the indigo-blue takes place, the other bodies get oxidized by absorption of the oxygen of the indigo-blue; the protoxides become per-oxides, and the acids in our become acids in ic, & c. Several metallic sulphurets also reduce the indigo-blue in the same predicament, as the sulphurets of potassium, or calcium, or antimony, and of arsenic (orpiment.) A similar influence is exercised by fermenting vegetable substances, such as woad, madder, bran, raw sugar (molasses), starch, syrup, in consequence of the formation of carbonic and acetic acids, by absorption of the oxygen of the indigo-blue, for acetic acid and acetic salts are found in the liquor of the warm blue vat, in which indigo has been reduced by means of woad, madder, and bran.

Formation of colorless reduced indigo-blue, or indigotine. - Purified indigo-blue is to be treated with copperas and slaked lime, as above described; or the clear wine-yellow supernatant liquor of the cold blue-vat mixture is to be taken, run by a syphon into a matrass, a few drops of concentrated acetic or sulphuric acid, deprived of air to be poured into it, and the vessel, being made quite full, is to be well corked. The reduced indigo soon falls in white flocks, or crystalline scales. They must be edulcorated upon a filter with water deprived of its air by boiling, then pressed between folds of blotting-paper, and dried under the receiver in vacuo. Indigo-blue may likewise be reduced and dissolved by solution of hydro-sulphuret of ammonia; and the colorless indigotine may be precipitated by muriatic acid.

The reduced indigo is sometimes white at the instant of its elimination, sometimes grayish, of a silky lustre, but becomes very readily greenish, blue green, and blue, in the air; in which case it absorbs, according to Berzelius, 4.2 per cent. of oxygen; but according to Liebeg, 11.5. per cent. It is void of taste and smell, in insoluble in water; well boiled water free from air is not affected by it, but is turned blue by common water, It dissolves in alcohol and ether into a yellow dye; not in dilute acids, but in concentrated sulphuric acid, whereby probably a portion of this is decomposed, and some hyposulphurous acid formed; the colour of this solution is blue. Solutions of the caustic and carbonated alkalis, even the alkaline earths, readily dissolve reduced indigo into a wine-yellow liquid; but in contact with air, oxygen is absorbed, and indigo-blue falls, while a purple-colored froth, passing into copper-red, appears upon the surface, just as in the indigo vats of the dyer.

The reduced indigo may be combined, by means of complex affinity, with other bases, with the exception of the oxydes of copper, zinc, and mercury, which oxidize it. These combinations are white, in part crystallizable, become speedily blue in the air, and afford by sublimation indigo-blue. Berzelius formed with lime a two-fold combination; one easily soluble in water, and another difficultly soluble, of a lemon color, which contained an excess of lime; this is formed both in the hot and the cold blue vat; in the latter it is occasioned by an overdose of lime.

When pure indigo-blue is treated with concentrated sulphuric acid, and particularly with six times its weight of the smoking dry acid, it dissolves completely, and several different compounds are produced in the solution. There is first a blue sulphate of indigo; secondly, a similar compound with the resulting hyposulphurous acid; thirdly, a combination of sulphuric acid with the purple of indigo (called Phænicin by Crum), a peculiar substance, generated from indigo-blue. These three compounds are here dissolved in an excess of sulphuric acid. The more concentrated the sulphuric acid is, the more blue hyposulphite is formed. The solution in smoking acid, when diluted with water and filtered, affords a considerable precipitate of indigo purple, which that in oil of vitriol does not. The vapour of anhydrous sulphuric acid combines with indigo-blue into a purple fluid.

In order to obtain from the dark blue solution each of these blue acids in a pure state, we must dilute it with forty times its weight of water, and immerse in the filtered liquor, well washed wool or flannel, with which the blue acids combine, while most of the sulphuric acid and some other foreign substances remain free in the liquor. The wool must be then scoured with water containing about a half per cent. of carbonate of ammonia, or potash, which neutralizes both of the blue acids, and produces a blue compound. This being evaporated to dryness at the temperature of 140° F., alcohol of 0.833 is to be poured upon the residuum, which dissolves the blue hyposulphite, but leaves the blue sulphate undissolved. From either salt, by precipitating with acetate of lead, by acting upon the precipitate with sulphureted hydrogen water, and evaporation, either of the two blue acids may be obtained. They may be both evaporated to dryness, especially the blue sulphate of indigo; they both become somewhat moist in the air, they are very soluble in water, and the blue sulphate also in alcohol; they have a not unpleasant smell, and acid astringent taste.

From these habitudes, particularly in reference to the bases, it appears that indigo-blue does not comport itself like a saline base towards the acids, but rather like an acid, since it enters into the salts, just as the empyreumatic oil of vinegar and oil of turpentine do into resin soups. The blue pigment of both acids is reduced by zinc or iron without the disengagement of hydrogen gas; as also by sulphureted hydrogen, tepid protochloride of tin, while the liquor becomes yellow.

Indigo-blue sulphate of potash, or ceruleo-sulphate of potash, may be obtained by extracting the blue colour from the wool by water containing 1 per cent. of carbonate of potash, evaporating nearly to dryness, treating the extract with alcohol to remove the indigo-blue hyposulphite, then with acetic acid and alcohol to remove any excess of carbonate of potash. It is found in commerce under the name of precipitated indigo, indigo paste, blue carmine, and soluble indigo. To prepare it economically, indigo is to be dissolved in ten times its weight of concentrated sulphuric acid; the solution after twenty-four hours is to be diluted with ten times its weight of water, filtered, and imperfectly saturated with carbonate of potash; whereby a blue powder dalls down; for the resulting sulphate of potash throws down the ceruleo-sulphate, while the hyposulphite of potash remains dissolved. It is a dark blue copper shining powder, soluble in140 parts of cold water, and in much less of boiling water. It is made use as a dye, and to give starch a blue tint. When mixed with starch into cakes, it is sold under the name of blue for washerwomen.

Ceruleo-sulphate of ammonia may be formed in the same way. It is much more soluble in water. Ceruleo-sulphate of lime is obtained by saturating the above dilute acid with chalk, filtering to separate the undyed gypsum, and washing with water till the purple colour be extracted. This liquor, evaporated and decomposed by alcohol, affords a bluish flocky precipitate, which is more soluble in water than common gypsum, and dries up in a purple-blue film. Ceruleo-sulphate of alumina may be obtained by double affinity; it is dark blue while moist, but becomes black-blue by drying, and is soluble in water.

The blue present in all these salts of ceruline is destroyed by sunshine, becomes greenish-gray by caustic alkalis; and turns immediately yellow-brown by alkaline earths. But when the solution is very dilute, the colour becomes first green, then yellow. The carbonates of alkalis do not produce these changes. Nitric acid decomposes the colour quickly. Mr. Crum considers ceruline to be a combination of indigo-blue water.

Phenicine, or indigo-purple combined with sulphuric acid, is obtained when the solution of indigo-blue in concentrated sulphuric acid has been diluted for a few hours with water, and then filtered. It seems to be an intermediate body into which the indigo-blue passes, before it becomes soluble ceruline. hence it occurs in greater quantity soon after digesting the indigo with the acid, than afterwards. It is dark blue, dissolves gradually in water, affords after evaporation a blue residuum, of the same appearance as the above blue acids. When a salt is added to it a purple precipitate ensues, which is a compound of indigo-purple, sulphuric acid, and the base of the salt. Indigo-purple is reduced by bodies having a strong attraction for oxygen, if a free alkali or alkaline earth be present, and its solution is yellow, but it becomes blue in the atmosphere. According to Mr. Crum, Phenicine contains half as much combined water as ceruline.

The table which I published in 1830 (as given above) shows very clearly how much the real quality and value of indigo differ from its reputed value and price, as estimated from external characters by the brokers. Various test or proof processes of this drug have been proposed. That with chlorine water is performed as follows. It is known that chlorine destroys the blue of indigo, but not the indigo-red or indigo-brown, which by the resulting muriatic acid is thrown down from the sulphuric solution in flocks, and the chlorine acts in the same way on the gliadine or gluten of the indigo. Pure indigo-blue is to be dissolved in 10 or 12 parts of concentrated sulphuric acid, and the solution is to be diluted with a given weight of water, as, for example, 1000 parts for 1 of indigo-blue. If we then put that volume of liquor into a graduated glass tube, and add to it chlorine water of a certain strength till its blue colour be destroyed by becoming first green and then red-brown, we can infer the quantity of colour from the quantity of chlorine water expended to produce the effect. The quantity of real indigo-blue cannot, however, be estimated with any accuracy in this way, because the other colouring matters in the drug act also upon the chlorine; and, indeed, the indigo itself soon changes when dissolved in sulphuric acid even out of access of light, while the chlorine water itself is very susceptible of alteration. Perhaps a better appreciation might be made by avoiding the sulphuric acid altogether, and adding the finely powdered indigo to a definite volume of the chlorine water till its colour ceased to be destroyed, just as Prussian-blue is decoloured by solution of potash in making the ferro-cyanide.

Another mode, and one susceptible of great precision, is to convert 10 or 100 grains of indigo finely powdered into its deoxidized state, as in the blue vat by the proper quantity of slaked lime and solution of green sulphate; then to precipitate the indigo, collect and weight it. The indigo should be ground upon a muller along with the quicklime, the levigated mixture should be diluted with water, and added to the solution of copperas. This exact analytical process requires much nicely in the operator, and can hardly be practised by the broker, merchant, or manufacturer.

Employment of indigo in dyeing. - As indigo is insoluble in water, and as it can penetrate the fibres of wool, cotton, silk, and flax, only when in a state of solution, the dyer must study to bring it into this condition in the most complete and economical manner. This is effected either by exposing it to the action of bodies which have an affinity for oxygen superior to its own, such as certain metals and metallic oxydes, or by mixing it with fermenting matters, or, finally, by dissolving it in a strong acid, such as the sulphuric. The second of the above methods is called the warm blue, or pastel vat; and being the most intricate, we shall begin with it.

Before the substance indigo was known in Europe, woad having been used for dyeing blue, gave the name of woad vats to the apparatus. the vats are sometimes made of copper, at other times of iron or woad, the last alone being well adapted for the employment of steam. The dimensions are very variable; but the following may be considered as the average size: depth, 7½ feet; width below, 4 feet, above 5 feet. The vats are built in such a way that the fire does not affect their bottom, but merely their sides half way up; and they are sunk so much under the floor of the dyehouse, that their upper half only is above it, and is surrounded with a mass of masonry to prevent the dissipation of the heat. About 3 or 3½ feet under the top edge an iron ring is fixed, called the champagne by the French, to which a net is attached in order to suspend the stuffs out of contact of the sediment near the bottom.

In mounting the vat the following articles are required: 1. woad prepared by fermentation, or woad merely dried, which is better, because it may be made to fermet in the vat without the risk of becoming putrid, as the former is apt to do; 2. indigo, previously ground in a proper mill; 3. madder; 4. potash; 5. slaked quicklime; 6. bran. In France, weld is commonly used instead of potash.

The indigo mill is represented in figs. 579 and 580. a is a four-sided iron cistern, cylindrical or rounded in the bottom, which rests upon gudgeons in a wooden frame; it has an iron lid b; consisting of two leaves, between which the rod c moves to and fro, receiving a vibratory motion from the crank d. By this construction, a frame e, which is made fast in the cistern by two points e e, is caused to vibrate, and to impart its swing movement to six iron rollers f f f, three being on each side of the frame, which triturate the indigo mixed with water into a fine paste. Whenever the paste is uniformly ground, it is drawn off by the stopcock g, which had been previously filled up by a screwed plug, to prevent any of the indigo from lodging in the orifice of the cock, and thereby escaping the the action of the rollers. The cistern is nearly three feet long.

The vat being filled with clear river water, the fire is to be kindled, the ingredientsintroduced, and if fermented woad be employed, less lime is needed than with the merely dried plant. Meanwhile the water is to be heated to the temperature of 160%deg; Fahr., and maintained at this pitch till the deoxidizement and solution of the indigo begin to show themselves, which, according to the state of the constituents, may happen in 12 hours, or not till after several days. The first characters of incipient solution are blue bubbles, called the flowers, which rise upon the surface, and remain like a head of soap-suds for a considerable time before they fall; then blue coppery shining veins appear with a like coloured froth. The hue of the liquor now passes from blue to green, and an ammoniacal odour begins to be exhaled. Whenever the indigo is completely dissolved, an acetic smelling acid may be recognized in the vat, which neutralizes all the alkali, and may occasion even an acid excess, which should be saturated with quicklime. The time for doing this cannot be in general very exactly defined. When quicklime has been added at the beginning in sufficient quantity, the liquor appears of a pale wine-yellow colour, but if not, it acquires this tint on the subsequent introduction of the lime. Expecience has not hitherto decided in favor of the one practice or the other.

As soon as this yellow colour is formed in the liquor, and its surface becomes blue, the vat is ready for the dyer, and the more lime it takes up without being alkaline, the better it is condition. The dyeing power of the vat may be kept up during six months, or more, according to the fermentable property of the woad. From time to time, madder and bran must be added to it, to revive the fermentation of the sediment, along with some indigo and potash, to replace what may have been abstracted in the progress of dyeing. The quantity of indigo must be proportional, of course, to the depth or lightness of the tints required.

During the operation of this blue vat two accidents are apt to occur; the first, which is the more common one, is called the throwing back, in French, the cuve rebuté, and in German, the Scharf or Schwartzwerden (the becoming sharp or black); the second is the putrefaction of the ingredients. Each is discoverable by its peculiar smell, which it is impossible to describe. The first is occasioned by the employment of too much quicklime, whereby the liquor becomes neutral or even alkaline. This fault may be recognized by fading of the green, or by the dark green, or nearly black appearance of the liquor; and by a dull blue froth, owing to a film of lime. The remedy for a slight degree of this vicious dition, is to suspend in the liquor a quantity of bran tied up in a bag, and to leave it there till the healthy state be restored. Should the evil be more inveterate, a decoction of woad, madder, and bran must be introduced. Strong acids are rather detrimental. Sulphate of iron has been recommended, because its acid precipitates the lime, while its oxide reduces the indigo to the soluble state.

The decomposition or putrification of the blue vat is an accident the reverse of the preceding, arising from the transition of the acetous into the putrid fermention, whereby the dyeing faculty is destroyed. Such a misfortune can happen only towards the commencement of working the vat, whilst the woad is still powerful, and very little indigo has been dissolved. Whenever the vat is well charged with indigo, that accident cannot easily supervene. In both of these distemperatures the elevation of the temperature of the vat aggravates the evil.

Dyeing in the blue vat is performed as follows: -
Wool is put into a net, and pressed down into the liquor with rods; but cloth is smoothly stretched and suspended by hooks upon frames, which are steadily dipped into the vat, with slight motionss through the liquor; yarn-hanks must be dipped and turned about by hand. All unnecessary stirring of the liquor must however be avoided, lest the oxygen of the atmosphere be brought too extensively into contact with the reduced indigo, for which reason mechanical agitation with rollers in the vat is inadmissible. The stuffs to be dyed, take at the first dip only a feeble color, though the vat be strong, but they must be deepened to the desired shade by successive immersions of fifteen minutes or more each time, with intervals of exposure to the air, for absorption of its oxygen.

After the lapse of a certain time, if the fermentative power be impaired, which is recognized by the dye stuffs losing more colour in a weal alkaline test ley than they ought, the vat should be used up as far as it will go, and then the liquor should be poured away, for the indigo present is not in a reduced state, but merely mixed mechanically, and therefore incapable of forming a chemical combination with textile fibres. If cotton goods previously treated with an alkaline lay are to be dyed blue, the vat should contain very little lime.

Theory of the Indigo vat. - The large quantity of extractive matter in woad and madder; as also the sugar, starch, and gluten, in the bran and woad, when dissolved in warm water, soon occasion a fermentation, with an absorption of oxygen from the air, but especially from the indigo of the woad, and from that introduced in a finely ground state. When thus disoxygenated, it becomes soluble in alkaline menstrua; the red-brown of the indigo being dissolved at the same time. When lime is added, the indigo-blue dissolves, and still more readily if a little potash is conjoined with it; but whatever indigo-brown may have been dissolved by the potash, is thrown down by the lime. Lime in too large a quantity, however, forms an insoluble combination with the reduced indigo, and thus makes a portion of the dye ineffective; at the same time it combines with the extractive. In consequence of the fermentative action, carbonic acid, acetic acid, and ammonia are disengaged; the first two of which neutralize a portion of the lime, and require small quantities of this earth to be added in succession; hence also a considerable quantity of the carbonate of lime is found as a deposite on the sides and bottom of the vat. In the sound condition of the indigo vat, no free lime should be perceived, but on the contrary a free acid. Yet when the disengaged carbonic and acetic acids saturate the lime completely, no indigo can remain at solution; therefore a sufficient supply of lime must always be left to dissolve the dye, otherwise the indigo would fall down and mix with the extractive matter at the bottom. Goods dyed in the blue vat are occasionally brightened by a boil in a logwood bath, with a mordant of sulpho-muriate of tin, or in a bath of cudbear.

Another mode of mounting the indigo vat without woad and lime, is by means of madder, bran, and potash. The water of the vat is to be heated to the temperature if 122° F.; and for 120 cubic feet of it, 12 pounds of indigo, 8 pounds of madder, and as much bran, are to be added, with 24 pounds of good potashes; at the end of 36 hours, pounds more of potash are introduced, and a third 12 pounds in other 12 hours. In the course of 72 hours, all the characters of the reduction and solution of the indigo become apparent; at which time the fermentation must be checked by the addition of quicklime. The liquor has a bright full color, with a beautiful rich froth. In feeding the vat with indigo, and equal weight of madder, and a double weight of potash should be added. The odor of this vat, in its mild but active state, is necessarily different from that of the woad vat, as no ammonia is exhaled in the present case, and the sediment is much smaller. The reduced indigo is held in solution by the carbonated potash, while the small addition of quicklime merely serves to precipitate the indigo-brown.

A potash vat dyes in about half the time of the ordinary warm vat, and penetrates fine cloth much better; while the goods thus dyed lose less colour in alkaline and soap solutions This vat may moreover be kept with ease in good condition for several months; is more readily mounted; and from the minute proportion of lime present, it cannot impair the softness of the woollen fibres. It is merely a little more expensive. It is said that cloth dyed in the potash indigo vat, requires one third less soap in the washing at the fulling mill, and does not soil the hands after being dressed. At Elbeuf and Louviers, in France, such vats are much employed. Wool, silk, cotton, and linen may all be dyed in them.

Cold vats. - The copperas or common blue vat of this country is so named because the indigo is reduced by means of the protoxide of iron. This salt should therefore be as free as possible from the red oxyde, and especially from any sulphate of copper, which would re-oxidize the indigo. The necessary ingredients are: copperas (green suplhate of iron), newly slaked quicklime, finely ground indigo, and water; to which sometimes a little potash or soda is added, with a proportional diminution of the lime. The operation is conducted in the following way: the indigo, well triturated with water or an alkaline ley, must be mixed with hot water in the preparationvat, then the requisite quantity of lime is added, after which the solution of copperas must be poured in with stirring. Of this preparation vat, such a portion as may be wanted is laded into the dyeing vat. For one pound of indigo three pounds of copperas are taken, and four pounds of lime (or 1 of indigo 2½ of copperas, and 3 of lime). If the copperas be partially peroxidized somewhat more of it must be used.

A vat containing a considerable excess of lime is called a sharp vat, and is not well adapted for dyeing. A soft vat, on the contrary, is that which contains too much copperas. In this case the precipitate is apt to rise, and to prevent uniformnity of tint in the dyed goods. The sediment of the copperas vat consists, of sulphate of lime, oxide of iron, lime with indigo brown, and lime with indigo blue, when too much quicklime has been employed. The clear, dark wine yellow fluid contains indigo blue in a reduced state, and indigo red, both combined with lime and with the gluten of indigo dissolved. After using it for some time the vat should be refreshed or fed with copperas and lime, upon which occasion the sediment must first be stirred up, and then allowed time to settle again and become clear. For obtaining a series of blue tints, a series of vats of vats of different strengths is required.

Linen and cotton yarn, before being dyed, should be boiled with a weak alkaline lye, then put upon frames or tied up in hanks, and after removing the froth from the vat, plunged into and moved gently through it. For pale blues, and old, nearly exhausted vat is used; but for deep ones, a fresh, nearly saturated vat. Cloth is stretched upon a proper square dipping frame made of wood, or preferably of iron, furnished with sharp hooks or points of attachment. These frames are suspended by cords over apulley, and thus immersed and lifted out alternately at proper intervals. In the course of 8 or 10 minutes, the cloths is sufficiently saturates with the solution of indigo, after which it is raised and suspended so as to drain into the vat. The number of dippings determines the depth of the shade; after the last, the goods are allowed to dry, taken off the frame, plunged into a sour bath very dilute sulphuric or muriatic acid, to remove the adhering lime, and then well rinsed in running water. Instead of dipping frames some dyers use a peculiar roller apparatus, called gallopers, similar to what has been described under CALICO PRINTING; particularly for pale blues. This cold vat is applicable to cotton, linen, and silk goods.

When white spots are to appear upon a blue ground, resist pastes are to be used, as described under CALICO PRINTING.

The urine vat is prepared by digestion of the ground indigo in warmed stale urine, which first disoxygenates the indigo, and then dissolves it by means of its ammonia. Madder and alum are likewise added, the latter being of use to moderate the fermentation. This vat was employed more commonly of old than at present, for the purpose of dyeing woollen and linen goods.

The mode of making the China blue dye has been described under CALICO PRINTING; as well as the pencil blue, or blue of application.

A blue dye may likewise be given by a solution of indigo in sulphuric acid. This process was discovered by Barth, at Grossenhayn, in Saxony, about the year 1740, and is hence called the Saxon blue dye. The chemical nature of this process has been already fully explained. If the smoking sulphuric acid employed, from 4 to 5 parts are sufficient for 1 of indigo; but if oil of vitriol, from 7 to 8 parts. The acid is to be poured into an earthen-ware pan, which in summer must be placed in a tub of cold water, to prevent it getting hot, and the indigo, in fine powder, is to be added, with careful stirring, in small successive portions. If it becomes heated, a part of the indigo is decomposed, with the disengagement of sulphurous acid gas, and indigo green is produced. Whenever all the indigo has been dissolved, the vessel must be covered up, allowed to stand for 48 hours, and then diluted with twice its weight of clear river water.

The undiluted mass has a black blue color, is opaque, thick, attracts water from the air, and is called indigo composition, or chemic blue. It must be prepared beforehand, and kept in store. In this solution, besides cerulin, there are also indigo-red, indigo-brown, and gluten, by which admixture the pure blue of the dye is rendered foul, assuming a brown or green cast. To remove these contaminations, wool is bad recourse to. This is plunged into the indigo previously diffused through a considerable body of water, brought to a boiling heat in a copper kettle, and then allowed to macerate as it cools for 24 hours. The wool takes a dark blue dye by absorbing the indigo-blue sulphate and hyposulphite while at the same time the liquor becomes greenish blue; and if the wool be left longer immersed, it becomes of a dirty yellow. It must therefore be taken out, drained, washed in running water till this runs off colorless, and without an acid taste. It must next be put into a copper full of water, containing one or two per cent. of carbonate of potash, soda, or ammonia (to about one third the weight of the indigo), and subjected to a boiling heat for a quarter of an hour. The blue salts forsake the wool, leaving it of a dirty red-brown, and dye the water blue. The wool is in fact dyed with the indigo red, which is hardly soluble in alkali. The blue liquor may now be employed as a fine dye, possessed of superior tone and lustre. It is called distilled blue and and soluble blue. Sulphuric acid throws down from it the small quantity of indigo-red which had been held in solution by the alkali.

When wool is to be dyed with this sulphate of indigo-blue, it must be first boiled in alum, then treated with the blue liquor, and thus several times alternately, in order to produce an uniform blue color. Too long continuance of boiling is injurious to the beauty of the dye. In this operation the woollen fibres get impregnated with the indigo-blue sulphate of alumina.

With sulphate of indigo, not only blues of every shade are dyed, but also green, olive, gray, as also a fast ground to logwood blues; for the latter purpose the preparatory boil is given with alum, tartar, sulphates of copper and iron, and the blue solution; after which the goods are dyed up with a logwood bath containing a little potash.

Statistical Tables of Indigo; per favour of James Wilkinson, Esq., of Leadenhall, Street.

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