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Nineteenth century synthetic textile dyes. Their history and identification on fabric

Nineteenth century synthetic textile dyes. Their history and identification on fabric
Nineteenth century synthetic textile dyes. Their history and identification on fabric
Textile dyes have been the subject of many studies from the varied perspectives of historians, conservators and scientists. Most of these have focused on natural compounds but nineteenth century synthetic dyes form the basis of this thesis. The dual areas of interest have been the social history of those dyes developed between the introduction of Mauveine in 1856 and the end of the century and the investigation of novel spectroscopic methods for their identification in situ on textiles.

Although the first synthetic dye was manufactured in England, the centre of the industry soon moved to Germany and Switzerland. Education and contacts in Switzerland or Germany were important in advancement in the field as can be seen in the previously unresearched biography of J.J. Hummel who, through his Swiss step-father, was able to travel to Zurich to study and subsequently progressed from working as a cotton printer to become the first professor of textile dyeing at the Yorkshire College, later Leeds University.

Evidence was found in newspapers and popular periodicals for three other factors which had an important influence on the attitude to synthetic dyes in England. One was English reluctance to invest in speculative ventures rather than the established textile industries. The second was the possession of colonial holdings and overseas trade networks which encouraged continued research into imported natural products. Thirdly the particular form of the Arts and Crafts movement in England emphasised the craft means of production in a way which the equivalent aesthetic in Germany did not. Nineteenth century dye manuals show that there was no exclusive use of either natural or synthetic dyes in the trade despite the fashion in artistic circles for ‘natural’ colours.

The identification of synthetic dyes on textiles is important in textile history and conservation especially in the context supplied by the investigations described above into the usage of the dyes. It is highly desirable in the field of cultural heritage to devise analytical techniques which are non-destructive and non-sampling. Dyed wool and silk samples were prepared using 12 dye compounds. Different techniques were tested and Fourier transform Raman spectroscopy was able to provide diagnostic spectra for a variety of synthetic dyes. Clear features in the spectra could be used to identify the dye class and to distinguish between dyes of the same class. This technique allowed the detection of dyes on the textile for the first time and it was applied successfully to original samples from dye manuals. One unknown mauve sample was also analysed and a combination of infrared and Raman spectroscopy allowed a definite identification of the dye as a triphenylmethane and tentatively as Methyl violet.

This study combines investigations into material culture and social history and demonstrates the use of science together with historical research to reveal new insights into the history of textile dyes.
Baker, Rosemary M.
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Baker, Rosemary M.
f7a659a7-70d9-4105-b62f-d4149d679137
Garside, Paul
58b3f896-8e10-4516-af7d-2aa7c106c517
Hayward, Maria
4be652e4-dcc0-4b5b-bf0b-0f845fce11c1
Russell, Andrea
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Baker, Rosemary M. (2011) Nineteenth century synthetic textile dyes. Their history and identification on fabric. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 231pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Textile dyes have been the subject of many studies from the varied perspectives of historians, conservators and scientists. Most of these have focused on natural compounds but nineteenth century synthetic dyes form the basis of this thesis. The dual areas of interest have been the social history of those dyes developed between the introduction of Mauveine in 1856 and the end of the century and the investigation of novel spectroscopic methods for their identification in situ on textiles.

Although the first synthetic dye was manufactured in England, the centre of the industry soon moved to Germany and Switzerland. Education and contacts in Switzerland or Germany were important in advancement in the field as can be seen in the previously unresearched biography of J.J. Hummel who, through his Swiss step-father, was able to travel to Zurich to study and subsequently progressed from working as a cotton printer to become the first professor of textile dyeing at the Yorkshire College, later Leeds University.

Evidence was found in newspapers and popular periodicals for three other factors which had an important influence on the attitude to synthetic dyes in England. One was English reluctance to invest in speculative ventures rather than the established textile industries. The second was the possession of colonial holdings and overseas trade networks which encouraged continued research into imported natural products. Thirdly the particular form of the Arts and Crafts movement in England emphasised the craft means of production in a way which the equivalent aesthetic in Germany did not. Nineteenth century dye manuals show that there was no exclusive use of either natural or synthetic dyes in the trade despite the fashion in artistic circles for ‘natural’ colours.

The identification of synthetic dyes on textiles is important in textile history and conservation especially in the context supplied by the investigations described above into the usage of the dyes. It is highly desirable in the field of cultural heritage to devise analytical techniques which are non-destructive and non-sampling. Dyed wool and silk samples were prepared using 12 dye compounds. Different techniques were tested and Fourier transform Raman spectroscopy was able to provide diagnostic spectra for a variety of synthetic dyes. Clear features in the spectra could be used to identify the dye class and to distinguish between dyes of the same class. This technique allowed the detection of dyes on the textile for the first time and it was applied successfully to original samples from dye manuals. One unknown mauve sample was also analysed and a combination of infrared and Raman spectroscopy allowed a definite identification of the dye as a triphenylmethane and tentatively as Methyl violet.

This study combines investigations into material culture and social history and demonstrates the use of science together with historical research to reveal new insights into the history of textile dyes.

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Published date: 1 September 2011
Organisations: University of Southampton, History

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 372624
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/372624
PURE UUID: fb8a343f-3216-4136-8608-d2c2cc9ae622
ORCID for Andrea Russell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8382-6443

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Dec 2014 14:57
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:58

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Contributors

Author: Rosemary M. Baker
Thesis advisor: Paul Garside
Thesis advisor: Maria Hayward
Thesis advisor: Andrea Russell ORCID iD

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