Human clothing, dyeing, and calico printing.*

The United States Democratic review 100, 1846

* Practical Treatise on Dyeing and Calico Printing; including the Latest Inventions and Improvements: also, a Description of the Origin, Manufacture, Uses, and Chemical Properties of the various animal, vegetable and mineral substances employed in these arts; with an Appendix, &c. By an Experienced Dyer, mined by several scientific gentlemen; with Engravings on steel and wood. Harper & Brothers, New-York.The great objects for which nine tenths of the human species are toiling through their probationary state are food and raiment, and they have been improved in quality and enhanced in quantity, in proportion to the advance of civilization. Articles of clothing are now at the command of the lowest members of society, which, but a century since, were scarcely within the reach of crowned heads. It is some what remarkable that nearly all the great inventions of modern times, the most singular triumphs of the human intellect over matter, have tended to promote the production of clothing, by substituting machinery for labor, and economy in time and outlay in the man ufacture of wcarin apparel. In the production of our food very little advance has been made in the same direction. That is to say, improvements have indeed been made on the rude implements of husbandry common to former ages, but the amount of manual labor necessary to bring forth a certain quantity of food has not been materiall diminished. On the other hand, through the exercise of his intellect, man has been enabled to work up the five great raw materials, wool, flax, hemp, silk and cotton, into a limitless variety of clothing, adapted to all tastes, ages, climates and conditions, in a continually increasing supply, and at the same time comparatively dispensing with manual labor. In considering these facts, we find something analogous to the condition of our first parents, when they incurred the Divine displeasure. From that time forth, they were to provide themselves with food and raiment. Adam heard the Divine mandate - "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" - but "unto Adam also and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them." The progenitors of the human race were clothed by the Omnipotent Power and sent forth to procure their own food. - This he has procured by the unremitting exercise of his physical powers, while the divine part of his nature has mostly contributed to the multiplication of clothing. In the earlier stages of the human race, the animals slain for food furnished incidentally the materials for clothing. To detach the wool, and to form it into a cloth, as a substitute for skin, was a great advance, and to transfer the colors of the vegetable kingdom to their clothes, so as to relieve the monotony of the natural color, would soon suggest itself. Even savages, unacquainted with cloth or its manufacture, stain their persons with vegetable dyes. The art of cloth manu facture has, however, in the last century, made more rapid advances than during the previous five thousand years, and this has been through the exercise of the human intellect. The great inventions in machinery that have taken place in the last 50 years, have wonderfully in creased the production of cloths. In fact, cotton may be said to have become important as an article of clothing, only in that period, and solely through the aid of machines, perfected in different countries. The cotton gin of Whitney first made the raw material available, and the card machine of Whitney, of which John Randolph remarked, that it seemed to act as if animated by a soul, promoted the carding; the jenny of Hargrave, and its improvement by Arkwright, gave the means of spinning, and the steam-engine of James Watt, furnished the power to move these wonderful machines. With these mighty laborers, vast quantities of cloth have been furnished of almost every variety of texture, and every quarter of the world has been supplied with suit able clothing. Not less wonderful have been the improvements in the art of dyeing and printing those cloths. To give them a variety of bright and per - manent colors, the science of chemistry has been drawn upon with eminent success, and each advance in that science has been fraught with increased facilities to the; dyeing process. In the case of dyeing and printing calicoes, it happens, however, that it has had to encounter the greatest difficulties from government oppression, both in France and the United States, as well as in England. It was not until 1736, that the restrictions imposed by the Parliament of England against wearing printed fabrics were repealed; and in 1750, only 50,000 pieces of printed goods were made in England, often the warp was linen, there being no means of spinning cotton strong enough forv that purpose. The printing of cot ton was introduced into Laneashire about the year 1770, and from that time the business progressed. The quantity printed in England was accurately ascertained up to 1831, by means of the tax imposed on all printed goods. By the returns, the yards made in 1796 were 20,621,797; in 1814, 124,613,472; and, 347,450,299 yards in 1830, of which amount, 199, 799,466 yards were exported, and 148, 650,833 retained for home consumption. The tax on printed cottons was removed in 1831, since, when, the quantity made has not been so accurately ascertained. The exports in 1845, had, however, risen to 310,850,697 yards, or nearly as much as the whole production in 1830; 500,000,000 yards is probably the English production now, an d 175,000,000 that oftheUnitedStates. The roduct of these two nations is therefore 675 millions yards, against 22 millions in 1800; or from 1¼; yards each inhabitant of both countries, the production has increased to 16 yards per head. This large production has been accompanied by a great and continuous fall in prices. The average export price from England was, in 1620, 27 cts. per yard. and in 1845, 9 cts. per yard; and the quality of the latter was greatly superior to the former. These results were brought about solely by improvements in science in different countries, in spite of the discouragements of the governments. As, for instance, in England, up to 1831, as we have stated, an excise tax was laid upon every yard of printed goods made in the United Kingdom. This tax was 3½d. or about 7 cts. per square yard, and yielded a duty of £2,022,258; in 1828 a drawback was allowed on all goods exported, and this drawback amounted in the same year to £1,360,069; the balance, £662,189, or about $3,000,000, constituted a direct tax upon all British prints consumed in the United Kingdom. The drawback thus allowed on exports, has been appealed to in this country by those who misunderstood its motive, as a proof of any allowance made by the British government to undersell American prints. The tax on the consumption of prints, was, however, the least evil with which the manufacturers had to contend. In order to levy the tax, it was necessary to prevent all printing of goods, except under a license from the government, and when allowed, a revenue officer was stationed in the works to pry into and overlook all its operations. In addition, there were heavy duties on color material. Notwithstanding these oppressions, the manufacturers made great progress. In the United States, the government, since 1815, has adopted a more effectual mode of preventing the growth of calico printing as a separate business. It is by imposing a tax upon the printing cloths, in order to protect the cotton spinner; as, for instance, the present tariff levies a duty of six cents per yard on the white cottons, and of nine cents per yard on printed; that is to say, the American cotton printer is obliged to pay six cents, or 100 per cent. more for the cloth to print than his English rival. This is called protection. Now, in spite of these oppressions, England, France and the United States, have each contributed to the common stock of knowledge, inventions and improvements, which have produced the results we have witnessed in the vast increase of production and decrease of price. The inventions and discoveries are of three classes — 1st. The preparation and working up of the raw material into white fabrics. 2nd. In the machinery for transferring designs upon the cloth — and, 3dly. The chemical preparations for imparting brilliant and durable colors to those designs. In the first class are embraced the cotton gin of Whitney, a native of Massachusetts, that who obtained his patent, 1792. Up to that time, the labor of cleaning cotton from the seed was so great as to make the article too costly for cultivation, and not more than ten million pounds were then produced in the United States. - This first made the raw material available to any considerable degree. The next operation, that of carding the cotton, was facilitated by the invention of the card machine, by an American citizen. By this the old laborious process of sticking the cards by hand was superseded and cylinder cards introduced. These two inventions were essential to supply the spinning jenny of Arkwright, driven by the steam-engine of Watt, with the raw material for spinning, and the power-loom of Dr. Cartwright for weaving the yarn into cloth. Each one of these inventions was necessary to the other, and each greatly accelerated the production of cloth, and the diminution of the amount of manual labor requisite in the production of clothing. While the supply of cloth was thus undergoing this prodigious increase, the art of printing it, although of very ancient origin, first sprung into importance. The old mode of printing the cloth, was for the operator to stretch the cloth upon a table before him, having in his hand an engraved block, to which he applied the color, and then pressed it with his hands upon the cloth. In making the next impression, he was careful to place his block so that the figure should match the im pression already made. This was a slow process, and was improved by applying mechanical power to the blocks by a contrivance that was a substitute for twenty expert hands, that is to say, one hand with the machine would do the work of twenty without it. The wooden blocks were superseded in 1785 by metallic cylinders. The entire surface of the cylinder was engraved with the required pattern, which was a very expensive operation, but the machine did as much work in a few hours as formerly occupied weeks. A complete revolution was effected in this matter by Mr. Jacob Perkins, of Massachusetts, who invented the mode of engraving the pattern upon a small steel cylinder, called a die. From this cylinder the pattern is transferred over the entire surface of a copper cylinder, and any number of them may be made at a small expense from one die, and worn cylinders are easily renewed. This new invention, introduced in 1808, gave a great impulse to the business. The next great improvement was in the means of printing several colors at one operation. At first only one color could be imparted to one pattern on the cylinder; within five years, five colors more were printed at one operation. While these great improvements were progressing in the means of producing cloth, and imparting designs to it, advances no less astonishing were made in the production and application of colors. This latter branc hof the business is perhaps the most scientific and interesting of all, and is well worthy the study even of those who have no connexion with calico printing as a business.

We have briefly sketched the leading events that have conspired to produce such wonderful results in the manufacture of cotton. It is to be observed, that each and all of the great inventions and discoveries in all the branches, were the results of individual genius in all countries. The United States, England and France, have all contributed the most important elements in the manufacture. The contributions of France have been mostly in chemical discoveries, and in the application of profound science to useful purposes. With them the principles of calico printing have been profoundly studied by the eminent chemists, who, educated in the Parisian schools of science, are kept constantly employed by the manufacturers in experimenting upon colors; as thus, to obtain good colors upon goods, it is indispensable that it be of a pure white; to obtain this, the old process of bleaching cotton required three months. M. Berthollet, of Paris, in 1785, first introduced chlorine as a bleaching agent, by which the process has been reduced to a few hours instead of months. This process was carried to England by James Watt, the inventor of the steam-engine, as applied to factories. The modern bleaching powders are the result of that discovery. It is self-evident, that one of the inventions and discoveries that has been made in either branch, has done more for the advance of manufacturing than all the government encouragement ever dreamed of. To make manufactures progress, it is only necessary to disseminate the knowledge of all its departments, to spread among the people the information. So far from this, the selfish mole-like policy of protection has been to bury in the bosoms of a few wealthy men the secrets they buy from needy inventors, and to tax the public for their support. A new era has now dawned upon the world, and perfect freedom of enterprise, with dissemination of knowledge, are about to give an impulse to manufactures greater than ever. The great inventions to which we have above alluded, have been confined to comparatively few persons. The world at large knows nothing of them. Thousands, who would be attracted to such emploments by becoming interested in the wonderful details, are ignorant of their existence. In this view, we hail with pleasure the appearance of the work of which the title is at the head of this article, and to which we are indebted for some of the facts above mentioned. We have read the work with intense interest, and regard it as of more importance to the success of manufactures in this country than the most skilfully contrived tariff, even if such laws have the good effect some statesmen ascribe to them, which, however, we deny. - The book skilfully connects the interesting science of chemistry with the practical operations of the dye-house. - Hitherto the former has been in the hands of philosophers, and the latter in those of practical men, who were apt to regard with distrust the speculations of the book-men. In the work before us, the practical dyer becomes the scientific chemist. All that is useful in the science, becomes at once familiar to the workman. Before giving a few extracts, highly interesting to the general reader, we will take from the author’s preface the plan of his work.

"In the following treatise the author has endeavored -

1. To reduce the whole theory of dyeing to the utmost simplicity and accuracy.

2. To classify, arrange and define colors, in order to enable those who are pursuing the related branches of study, as well as the artist, to comprehend more easily the nature of each particular hue, tint and shade, and the relation it bears to the primary elements of light, darkness and color.

3. To elucidate each particular subject in such a manner as, it is hoped, will impart substantial knowledge to those seeking it, and at the same time exhibit those shoals toward which so many have been attracted by erroneous deductions and false conclusions.

4. To set forth the actual properties, characters and uses of the various Animal, Vegetable and Mineral substances employed in dyeing and the auxiliary arts; and

5. To define the various chemical and technical terms employed in the dye-house, print-work, &c."

The promises contained in the preface, are well kept in the text, and the whole subject matter is made not only useful to the practical dyer. but from the manner with which it is treated, awakens an interest inthe community at large. In opening the nature of the dyeing process, the author remarks -

"Did each dye-drug impart its own color to cloth, and did there exist a sufficient variety of these drugs for the various shades of colors, dyeing would be a very simple art, as it would only be necessary to dissolve the dye-stuff and impregnate the goods. But so far from this being the case, if we except indigo, there is scarcely a dye-stuff that imparts its own color to goods; nay, the most part of the dye drugs used have so weak an affinity for cotton goods especially, that they impart no color sufficiently permanent to deserve the name of a dye. These circumstances render dyeing sufficiently intricate, and make it more dependent upon science; indeed, it is only by the nicest arrangement of a few chemical laws, that the dyer is enabled to turn to advantage the various coloring matters of which he is in possession. When the dyer finds that there is no affinity between the goods and any coloring substance which is put into his possession, he endeavors to find a third substance, which has a natural at traction for the cloth and coloring matter, so that by combining this substance with the cloth. and then passing the cloth through the dyeing solution, the coloring matter combines with the substance which is upon the goods, and constitutes a dye. - This third substance used, and which acts as an intermediate, combining two inimical bodies, is termed a mordant, from the French mordre, which signifies, to bite, from an idea. which the old dyers had that the substances bit or opened a passage into the fibres of the cloth, giving access to the color. And although the theory of their action is now changed, the term is still continued, and perhaps further investigation will prove the term most applicable."

"The bases or oxides which are in general use, and which appear to succeed best, are alumina, the oxides of tin, and iron; the first two are colorless, the peroxide of the latter is a light brown, and imparts to white goods a buff or nankeen color, which in many cases affects, to a considerable extent, the color of the cloth, a circumstance which must also be attended to by the dyer. Indeed, the principal part of all dyeing operations is the proper choice and application of mordsnts, there being a chemical union between them and the coloring matter; a new substance is formed, not only differing in properties but differing in color from any of the originals; consequently, a very little alteration in the strength or quality of a mordant gives a decided alteration in the shade of color. However, it gives the dyer a much wider field for variety of shades; at: the same time a less number of coloring substances is required; as, for example, logwood alone gives no color to cotton worthy the name of a dye; yet by the judicious application of a few different: kinds of mordants, all the shades from a French white to a violet — from a lavender to a purple — from a blue to a lilac — and from a slate to a black, are obtained from this substance."

"If a white piece of cotton be put through a dilute solution of chloride of tin (red spirits,) and from this put through a weak decoction of logwood, the coloring matter of the wood will be immediately precipitated, changing its hue to a violet color, very little of it combining with the cloth, and probably very unequally; but if the piece be thoroughly washed from the chloride of tin previous to putting into the logwood, the coloring matter of the wood will combine with the cloth, or rather the metallic base which is on the cloth; and provided the logwood solution corresponds with the strength of the mordant, the liquor will be left colorless; but the piece will be a light brownish shade. - If a little of the chloride of tin be now added to the liquor, its effects upon the logwood will be the same as if the piece had been put into it without being washed, but with this difference, that the coloring matter is in combination with the cloih, upon which it is not only changed to a violet color, but is rendered insoluble in water, and sufficiently permanent to constitute a dye. The substances thus added to the colored liquor to change and fix the colors are termed alterants, in the technical language of the dye-house raising: because it brightens the color. Alterants and mordants are often spoken of as two distinct substances; but the only distinction is the mode of applying them. In some instances distinct: substances are used. In the process detailed above, a little alum would do as well as the tin; or if a patticular bluish shade were wanted, a little pyrolignite of alumina; but in almost all cases the mordant may also be used as the alterant."

Having stated these general facts, the work proceeds with an historical and minute detail of the different mordants and their effects as discovered down to the present time, and proceeds with the most approved method of dyeing each color. In relation to Turkey red, we have the following: -

"In 1808, Reher, at Mariakirch, furnished the finest yarns of this dye, and M. Koechlin became celebrated for his Turkey-red cloth. This gentleman has immortalised his name in the annals of calico printing, by the discovery which he made in 1811. It consists in printing upon Turkey-red, or any dyed color, some powerful acid, and then immersing the cloth in a solution of chloride of lime. Neither of these agents singly affects the color, but those parts which have received the acid, on being plunged in chloride of lime, are speedily deprived of their dye, and made white by the acid of the liberated chlorine. This is one of the beautiful facts in the chemistry of calico printing.

"For this process a patent was obtained in England, by Mr. James Thomson, of Primrose, near Clitheroe, in the year 1813; and the same gentleman, in 1816, took out a second patent for a very useful and happy modification of the principle of the former one, namely, for combining with the acid some mordant, or metallic oxide, capable, after the colors were removed, of having imparted to it some other color. This laid the foundation of that series of processes, in which the chromic acid and its combination have since been employed with such great success."

We are necessarily confined to short extracts on the different: branches; but we extract the following interesting sketches of the origin of some dyes; first, in relation to Lac-dye.

"Stick-lac is produced by the puncture of a peculiar female insect, called coccus-lacca or ficus, upon the branches of several plants, which grow in Siam, Assam. Pegu, Bengal and Malabar. The twig becomes thereby incrusted with a reddish mammelated resin, having a crystalline-looking fracture. The female lac insect is of the size of a louse; red, round, flat, with 12 abdominal circles, is bifurcated tail, antennæ, and six claws, half the length of the body. The male is twice the above size, and has four wings; there is one of them to 5000 females. In November or December the young brood makes its escape from the eggs, lying beneath the dead body of the mother; they crawl about a little way, and fasten themselves to the bark of the shrubs. About this period the branches vermin, that they seem covered with a red dust; in this case, they are apt to dry up, by being exhausted of their juices. Many of these insects, however, become the ray of others, or are carried oil by the set of birds, to which they attach them selves, and are transplanted to other trees. They soon produce small nipple-like in crustations upon the twigs, their bodies being apparently glued, by means of a transparent liquor, which goes on increasing to the end of March, so as to form a cellular texture. At this time, the animal resembles a small oval bag, without life, of the size of cochineal. At the commencement, a beautiful red liquor only is perceived, afterwards eggs make their appearance; and in October or November, when the red liquor gets exhausted, 20 or 30 young ones bore a hole through the back of their mother, and come forth. The empty cells remain upon the branches. These are composed of the milky juice of the plant, which serves as nourishment to the insects, and which is afterwards transformed or elaborated into the red coloring matter that is found mixed with the resin, but in greater quantity in the bodies of the insects, in their eggs, and still more copiously in the red liquor secreted for feeding the young. After the brood escapes, the cell contain much less coloring matter. - On this account, the branches should be broken off before this happens, and dried in the sun. In the East Indies this operation is performed twice in the year; the first time in March, the second in October. The twigs incrusted with the radiated cellular substance constitute the stick-lac of commerce. It is a red color, more or less deep, nearly transparent, and hard, with a brilliant conchoidal fracture. The stick lac of Siam is the best."

Next in relation to indigo we have a curious historical anecdote, beautifully illustrative of the manner in which government protection has aided manufacture.

* "When Indigo was first introduced, only a small quantity was added to the weed, by which the latter was much improved; more was afterwards gradually used, and at last, the quantity became so large: that the small admixture of woad served only to revive the fermentation of the indigo. Germany thus lost a production by which farmers, merchants, carriers and others acquired great riches. In consequence of the sales of woad being so much injured, a prohibition was issued against the use of indigo by Saxony, in the year 1650. In the year 1652, Duke Ernest, the Pious, caused a proposal to be made to the diet by his envoy, that indigo should be entirely banished from the empire, and that an exclusive privilege should be granted to those who dyed with woad. This was followed by an imperial prohibition of indigo, on the 21st of April, 1654, which was enforced with the greatest severity in his dominions. The same was done in France; but in the well-known edict of 1669, in which Colbert separated the superior from the inferior dyers, it was stated that Indigo should be used without woad; and in 1737, dyers were left at liberty to use indigo alone, or to employ a mixture of indigo and woad.""Of the early history of indigo little is known, neither is it known when it was first used as a dye-stuff. The Greeks and Romans used it as a paint, under the name of Indicum. Its value, as a dye-stuff, was not known in Europe till nearly the close of the sixteenth century, when it was imported from India by the Dutch; but English legislators, for a long time, prohibited its use in Great Britain under severe penalties. These prohibitions continued in force till the reign of Charles II., and the reason consisted in its being considered a corrosive substance, and capable of destroying the fibres of cloth, and therefore calculated to injure the character of the dyers. This opinion, no doubt, sprung from the strong and interested opposition given to its use by the cultivators of the woad, which was then regarded as an im portant branch of national industry.*"

After describing some chemical operations, the work proceeds:

"Some practical dyer may indeed be inclined to ask, what those already noticed have to do with dyeing? We are sorry that with respect to some of them, we cannot give any satisfactory answer to the question; but the same question was asked, when chemists first intimated that chromic acid produced yellow salts when combined with lead; yet this simple hint has completely revolutionized various departments of dyeing, as we shall have occasion to notice, when we come to treat of the mineral coloring matters in next chapter; and the action of chromic acid upon indigo, as already observed, has been both a source of annoyance and advantage to the dyer. Previous to the use of alkaline substances with the salts of lead, dyers seldom could get an evenly chrome green; the chromic acid being set at liberty acted upon the indigo which was upon the yarn, destroying in part the blue color, after which the green was all light yellow blotches. - These annoyances are still felt where the new process of working the lead solution with an alkali is not practised. But this same action of chromic acid upon indigo has been taken advantage of by calico printers, when they want a white pattern on a blue ground. The pattern is printed upon the cloth with the oxide of a metal which yields its oxygen easily to other substances, such as copper and zinc; the goods are afterwards dyed blue by passing them through the vat; but the parts upon which these metallic salts are printed, resist the dye, by a process which will be presently described, so that the piece, when finished, is a blue ground with a white pattern."

We have made extracts as far as our limits will allow, in order to illustrate the varied and interesting matter contained in the volume. We have, how ever, not alluded to the chapters descriptive of the late inventions in the machinery for imparting colors to designs. We have before stated that it is only very recently that more than one color could be imparted by one operation. Chapter IV. contains a description of a machine patented in 1843, for printing five or more colors at once, by a most ingenious method. When we reflect upon the results of science, the multitudinous elements called from all quarters of the world, and combined with wonderful skill, according to the learned experience and triumphant genius of the citizens of all countries - the heart sickens at the gross folly what should lead legislatures to suppose that those results are in any degree to be attributed to the absurd restrictions imposed by them on trade. The true encouragement to manufacture is the spread of knowledge. Our author has well remarked in his preface as follows: -

"Dyers who achieve the distinction of good workmen are accustomed to estimate their abilities by the contrast which exists between themselves and the newly initiated journeyman; they rarely or never contemplate the wide field which lies unimproved if not unexplored before them. - Indeed, some of them are so injudicious as to boast of their capabilities, their expertness and their knowledge; and it is not uncommon for such to indulge in petty jealousies, and to endeavor to conceal the secret of their mode of producing a certain result. Follies of this sort have not been confined to journeymen; an employer has been known to complain that his work man are inefficient, when at the same time he was stealing, as it were, from one part of the dye-house to another with the very materials which it is their business to understand and use, in covered vessels, lest some one should learn what is the nature of the process whereby he produces, through their labor, a desired result. He thus exacts of them the advantages of knowledge, while doing his best to retain them in ignorance. While such narrow views are prevalent we may regret, but cannot wonder, that years have been spent — we should rather say wasted — in persevering and costly efforts to discover what was long before well known to all who thoroughly undcrslood the scientific principles of the art. This same ignorance of principles often renders both masters and workmen the dupes of a class of impudent knaves, who hawk about valuable secrets at so much apiece."

Nothing can be more true; and at the same time, he asks Congress to protect him against others that do know the secret. The day for those follies is rapidly becoming "obsolete." The time will come, when manufactures will be pursued for the mere sake of the pursuit, as chemistry is now studied philosophically.

The advance of manufactures does not exist in the creating of monopolies with large capital, that may deal out small wages to a dependent class of workmen, while the lucrative offices created by the concentration of large joint stock capital form the means of providing for the needy relatives of influential directors, at salaries which cannot be paid by a fair business. The large profits necessary to the support of the expensive establishments of the chartered corporations can only be derived from the labor of many persons, in the same manner in which splendid governments are supported only by the excessive taxation inflicted upon an unrepresented population. The question arises, are they necessary? and common sense answers, no. Disseminate knowledge among the people, and, throwing the trade open, give the industrious with small capitals a chance equal to that of corporate monopolies. The spirit of these monopolies is opposed to advance in science, because with every improvement their large investments in machinery, &c., become depreciated, and their profits endangered. On the other hand, where the genius and enterprise of individuals have free scope in all the subdivisions of the different branches of the business, the ,whole improves with an ac celerated movement. The new inventions supersede the old, and the public come promptly to profit by the success of the individual.

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