Monday, June 28, 2010

The emergence of synthetic red in Central America

It is often stated that synthetic dyes (especially red) took off fast and spectacular in Central America, and that the why of this is still an open question.
Just as wild hypothesis now, but could it be an anti-colonialistic reaction to the cochenille-trade that was largely in the hands of the Spanish colonizers/usurpers?
That synthetic dyes provided a way to break free of the obligation to buy their own product at overrated prices from the hands of the Spanish?
Besides, the obsession with bright reds would have found a welcome counterpart in the synthetic colours.
Just a mental note. More on this later?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Traditions in shagreen leather dyeing: black, green and blue

Shagreen leather (not to be confused with the shark or ray skin variety) was mainly made from horse or onager skin. Only a small part of the animals' backs is truly suitable.
After an initial treatment the grain side is showered with Chenopodium album (named alabuta) seeds, and covered with one or two layers of felt. This must be put under great pressure, so that the seeds leave their typical pattern in the still moist skin.

As several 19th century manuals (Hebert, 1838/Aikin, 1808) state: 'The beautiful green dye is given by soaking the inner or flesh side of the skin with a saturated solution of sal ammoniac, strewing it over with copper fillings, rolling it up with the flesh side inwards, and pressing each skin with considerable weight, for about 24 hours, in which time the sal-ammoniac dissolves enough of the copper to penetrate the skin with an agreeable see-green colour: this is repeated a second time, to give the colour more body. Blue shagreen is dyed with indigo, dissolved in an impure soda, by means of lime and honey. Black shagreen is dyed with galls and vitriol.'

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Poplar cotton or poplar silk? The experiment continues...

As mentioned earlier, the late 18th century saw a rise in (protectionism-triggered?) experiments to make cotton from home-grown plants.
F.X. Herzer was the main German researcher in this respect, but he based his efforts mainly on the work by Lindquist in the Swedish Annals of the Royal Academy and the machine Lindquist invented for the process. (A description of L.'s machine can be found in Bd. VII, p. 51 etc.). He also refers to the product as such: 'Swedische Baumwolle', that is what it is supposed to be.
Local names would be 'Jolster' or 'Hälster' in Swedish, where it was collected (as Herzer states) in Ostgotland and Smaland. (Gesammelte Nachrichter, 1793).
But the actual use seemed limited: the suggestion was to use the 'silk' (Herzer gets more and more lyrical about the matter in the course of writing) for repairing worn stockings. And then still, seed removal remained hard and laborous.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A neglected treatise on 18th-c. dyeing in India, pt. 2

Earlier, I published a text on a supposed 'neglected' text by Buchoz. It turns out that he probably copied (at least partly, and, again, true to his reputation) the Journal oeconomique of 1756. The anonymous author in the June-September issues mentions at least the same M. Guillard as informant. Schwartz (1966) has some more information on Guillard. To quote him: 'Guillard, already in Yanaon in 1727, went to Masulipatam comptoir in 1738, and was in Pondicherry by 1742. He fought with Paradis at the siege of Pondicherry in 1748, and rose to be general treasurer of the company between 1754 and 1758.'
This makes the information by Guillard in his Yanaon function only possible before 1742. The Beaulieu report, made prior to 1735, could well be based on the same informant, or maybe Beaulieu was simply also the anonymous author of the Journal oeconomique.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Poplars as producers of imitation cotton

The Dutch professor Uilkens produced several handbooks, in which he (inspired by the like of his precursor Martinet) declared the perfectness and inventiveness of God's Creation. As they were meant as general introductions, they rarely offer new insights.
In his 'Technologisch handboek' (1813), however, he declares (pt. II, p. 133):
'Over de inlandsche planten, welke men ook als katoen heeft zoeken te bewerken, zal ik niet handelen; het zij genoeg, te herinneren, dat men, in dezen, bij alle de moeite, welke ook een SCHÄFER en HERZER hebben aangewend, nog niet gelukkig geslaagd is, omdat aan derzelver wolachtige stof de noodige veerkracht ontbreekt (*).

(*)Men zie Geschichte verschiedener Inländschen Baumwollen arten, und ihres ökonomisches nutzens, von L.H. 1788. Men heeft, voornamelijk, voorgeslagen: Populus nigra, Populus canadensis, Populus tremens, Populus deltoides, Salix pentandra, Salix caprea, Epilobium hirsutum, Epilobium palustre, en meer andere. In KOPS Flora Batava vindt men hiertoe opgegeven, Eriophorum polystachion, Epilobium angustifolium, Onopordum acanthium en Salix alba, met de afbeelding hiervan.

In short summary: It seems that a 'L.H.' (I can not find the book/booklet in international libraries, and it seems to be lost) tried to make cotton out of the fluffy seed stalk filaments of poplar and willow species.
Sounds interesting, but whether the short parts could really substantiate in something even close to cotton? I doubt it.