1.12.16

On Black Dyeing as applied to Woollen Cloth and Hats.

American Farmer, 14.11.1828.

(From the New York Statesman.)

The dyeing of black has deteriorated so much within the last forty years in England, and in this country as the copyist of England, that the colours would be considered as unbearable, were not the cloths as evanescent in their fabric as the colours are fugitive. The faint miserable colours given to the blacks in the present day has been mainly the result of the prevailing passion for cheap goods. To meet and indulge that ridiculous unprofitable passion, the manufacturer has been compelled gradually to make his goods in the most flimsy manner, and the dyer to make his colour at as low a rate as possible. So much has the dyeing of black been lowered in the West of England, that a piece of twenty yards of broad cloth, which forty years since was charged thirty shillings, is now done for six shillings and eight pence, and the dyer makes nearly the same profit now as he did then.

Before the year 1790, all the black cloths dyed in England, excepting the coarsest grades, were colored blue in the woad vat previous to their receiving the black dye; and a considerable portion of nut galls was used with logwood, &c. in finishing the colour. All the black cloths brought from England, have a white and a blue rose near the head end. The white rose was designed to show that the cloth was while previously (o its being dyed blue; for, as cloths dyed other colours, if found defective, were usually dyed black to cover their imperfections, and as repeated colourings were found to injure the texture of the goods, the dealers would not give the same price for cloths without the white rose. The blue rose was designed to show that it bad received the blue dye, and the colour of the rose was considered a criterion of the depth of the blue given. The white and blue roses are still preserved; but the blue is never put on, except by dipping a corner of the cloth in the blue rat, and by tying a rose on that part Nutgalls, which were found to give permanency to the colours, have also been exploded as too expensive; and the blacks now given to the public, ure dyed with only logwood, fustic, and sumach. The latter being the only material in the composition that has any tendency to impart the least de gree of permanency to the colour, and that is ne cessarily used in such small portions, to preserve the blue bloom of the now fashionable colours, as to have but little effect in checking the fugitive dye of the logwood.

The French and the Germans have always made much better black, and given to that colour a far greater degree of permanency than the English. I am aware that this opinion will be considered as high treason by English agents, through whose influence the most flimsy goods, and the most miserable colours, have become fashionable in this country, and the public taste in this particular, been materially vitiated. To prove the correctness of this opinion, I need only request any citizen, who h is an opportunity of doing it, to compare an English black that has been worn three months with a French black that has been worn the same time.

The colour put on hats is even more fugitive than that put on the cloth; and it is high time that our dyers, both of woollens and hats, should pursue some mode of giving more body and permanency to their colours. The primary object of this essay is, to show them how this can be effected, without any additional expense to the operator. I am aware that it would be worse than useless to attempt to bring our dyers back to the old expensive but highly permanent process of giving a woad-blue to their goods before colouring them black, for the public taste has be come so highly vitiated by the passion for cheap goods, that firmness of fabric, body, and permanency of colour, and every other quality that gives to them an intrinsic value, are now never taken into consideration.

As giving a blue ground is out of the question, and as the nut-galls, the next most permanent mode, must also he resigned as too expensive, I have to di rect the attention of our dyers to a material growing abundantly in this country, which answers even a better purpose than nutgulls.and will cost no more than the process now pursued.

Most persons living in the interior of the country know that the bark of the swamp maple will make good black ink, though they may not be aware that four pounds of this bark, dried and ground, are equal to one pound of the best galls. The black obtained from this bark is equally as permanent as that from galls, and as the bark gives a much smaller portion of extraneous precipitate, it will clean better, and make a much brighter colour. Those dyers who formerly used nut-galls will know what quantity of swamp maple to use to a given quantity of logwood; but I would suggest to more modern dyers to leave out one pound of logwood for every pound of bark used by them.

Some few of our woollen dyers have, at my suggestion, used the maple bark for three or four years, and their colours are much esteemed both by deal ers and consumers. Should the colours prove too blue, they may be altered to any hue by the use of sumach or alder bark.

W. P.

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