M930.50.3.325 | Eclipse Dyes advertisement: the best for black stockings

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Eclipse Dyes advertisement: the best for black stockings
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
About 1870-1880, 19th century
Ink on paper - Wood engraving
9.8 x 8.9 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Developments in the chemical industry provide a boost to the textile industry.

It is by chance that, in 1856, William Henry Perkin, 18 years old, makes the first synthetic dye. An assistant to Professor Hofmann at the Royal College of Chemistry in London, Perkin is trying to make synthetic quinine, a remedy for malaria. He formulates an insoluble liquid, later called aniline, and extracts from it a purple substance - Perkin's violet - which he realizes can dye silk - his white shirt, in fact!

With their commercialization in 1876, synthetic dyes, which are more stable than their natural counterparts, stimulate a new era in clothing fashion. Suddenly, all sorts of colourful fabrics are available, and women flock to their dressmakers so they too can wear the new "fashionable" colours. By the 1880s, dressmakers in Montreal have access to a wide variety of colourful fabrics.

Source : Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology [Web tour], by Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal (see Links)

  • What

    The first dyes are used to colour fabrics for clothing. But manufacturers of shoes and other leather products quickly adopt them.

  • Where

    Around 1880, all well-dressed women in Montreal wear black stockings: It's all the fashion!

  • When

    Introduced to the marketplace in 1876, there are today about 7,000 synthetic dyes.

  • Who

    Colourful clothing and accessories were introduced primarily into women's fashions. Men kept wearing sober colours.