Sample Book, "Genuine Turkey Red", late 19th–early 20th century
Label: Woven cotton samples, leather binding, paper label, brass rivets. Gift of Harvey Smith. 1967-20-35.
- Made for Sun and Lion Brand
What is this?
Bound manufacturer's sample book with eighteen swatches of dyed red cotton. Each swatch shows a progressive increase in density and weight of the twill woven cloth. Bound in blue leather with two brass rivets and a paper label reading Genuine Turkey Red with the logo of Sun and Lion Brand.
This object is full of stories
The term Turkey red refers not to a dye, but to a technique for dyeing cotton a brilliant, wash-fast scarlet red, practiced throughout the Ottoman Empire but unknown in Europe. In order to discover the secret process for themselves, textile firms in England and France sent industrial spies to Turkey and Greece, or imported master dyers and established them at their workshops.
The process was labor-intensive and difficult, requiring 15 to 20 steps, including multiple baths in lye, potash, sheep dung, ox blood, and rancid olive oil. The technique was not adaptable to calico printing, and could only be used for dyeing yarns, or, with some difficulty, whole cloth. This sample book contains twenty-eight solid red samples of varying weights of cotton cloth, from batiste to canvas.