QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Thursday, February 21, 2019

The South American Market

Swatch of fabric, 1850
Nelson, Knowles, and Co.
"For the South American market"

About 1850 a British periodical The Journal of Design & Manufactures inserted swatches of actual fabric and wallpaper with critiques of current prints. (Wouldn't that be fun to revive!) The critiques could be sharp. The description of the stripe above in March, 1850:
"Nelson, Knowles, and Co., Manchester. The pattern inserted is a novelty in manufacture, being a specimen of chintz printing by eight cylinders. As it is intended, with some six or eight others, for the South American market, for which Messrs. Nelson, Knowles, and Co. chiefly print, nothing can fairly be said in criticism, unless we take the standard of those for whom it is produced."
In other words: 
They print for the export market. Since the customers aren't British there's no sense in even trying to measure taste by British standards.

A second Nelson, Knowles print
"Drawn and adapted especially for the Brazils....Must be judged by standards other than those we should apply to patterns produced for our home consumption. It is very effective in its way."
And a third:
"Manufactured principally for Spain and Portugal, and a clever specimen of executive skill; attractive for its purpose. Upon this and other goods prepared for foreign markets, we shall have some extended comments to make hereafter."
Shaded rainbow prints in blue and buff, two stripes and one coral print in bright colors with large figures. Printed for
  • Spain and Portugal
  • The Brazils
  • The South American Market
Terms that seem to be interchangeable.

As I've noted before the use of words like Portuguese indicates a general export market. These are the kinds of prints that were also purchased by North American importers as the same ships that served Portugal and Brazil made their way north along the Atlantic coast to Charleston and Baltimore.

I was also intrigued by the remark that Nelson, Knowles & Company chiefly printed for the South American market---the export customer.

Coming Home from the Mill by L.S. Lowry, 1928
Lowry painted 20th-century industrial cityscapes
and this one may be the Tottington Mill.

Nelson, Knowles & Company operated the Tottington Mill in Tottington, a few miles from the textile town of  Bury in Lancashire. The Tottington Mill began printing cotton about 1820 under owner Joshua Knowles (about 1794-1853).

An eight-color cylinder printing machine?

Their commercial histories tell us Knowles was the first to use an eight-color printing machine (noted in the 1850 print critique) and later expanded to twelve colors. By 1840 the mill employed 400 workers. Nelson, Knowles & Company closed the mill in the 1920s. Buildings were bombed during the Blitz and all that remains is the chimney among ruins in the Kirklees Valley nature reserve.


Knowles's estate Stormer-Hill still stands in Tottington.

See more on The Journal of Design & Manufactures
http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/aug2001.html

1 comment:

Wendy Caton Reed said...

For years I imagined that my wild sense of color was because I was secretly born in Lancaster, PA. Thanks to your wonderful posts on fabrics for export to Spain and Portugal, I can now properly thank my ancestors from the Azores! And, yes I think it would be fabulous if today's periodicals inserted fabric swatches within their pages. I would certainly subscribe to more magazines.