The Fabric of Civilization

How Textiles Made the World


Preface: The Fabric of Civilization

  1. Sylvia L. Horwitz, The Find of a Lifetime: Sir Arthur Evans and the Discovery of Knossos (New York: Viking, 1981); Arthur J. Evans, Scripta Minoa: The Written Documents of Minoan Crete with Special Reference to the Archives of Knossos, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 195–199; Marie-Louise Nosch, “What’s in a Name? What’s in a Sign? Writing Wool, Scripting Shirts, Lettering Linen, Wording Wool, Phrasing Pants, Typing Tunics,” in Verbal and Nonverbal Representation in Terminology Proceedings of the TOTh Workshop 2013, Copenhagen—8 November 2013, ed. Peder Flemestad, Lotte Weilgaard Christensen, and Susanne Lervad (Copenhagen: SAXO, Københavns Universitet, 2016), 93–115; Marie-Louise Nosch, “From Texts to Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age,” in Kosmos: Jewellery, Adornment and Textiles in the Aegean Bronze Age, Proceedings of the 13th International Aegean Conference/13e Rencontre égéenne internationale, University of Copenhagen, Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, 21–26 April 2010, ed. Marie-Louise Nosch and Robert Laffineur (Liege: Petters Leuven, 2012), 46.
  2. Clarke’s “third law” states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. See “Clarke’s three laws,” Wikipedia, last modified February 3, 2020,’s_three_laws.
  3. For a basic overview of the issues of defining civilization, see Cristian Violatti, “Civilization: Definition,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, December 4, 2014, The definition cited here is from Mordecai M. Kaplan, Judaism as a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of American-Jewish Life (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1981), 179.
  4. Jerry Z. Muller, Adam Smith in His Time and Ours: Designing the Decent Society (New York: Free Press, 1993), 19.
  5. Marie-Louise Nosch, “The Loom and the Ship in Ancient Greece: Shared Knowledge, Shared Terminology, Cross-Crafts, or Cognitive Maritime-Textile Archaeology,” in Weben und Gewebe in der Antike. Materialität—Repräsentation—Episteme—Metapoetik, ed. Henriette Harich-Schwartzbauer (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2015), 109–132. Histology, the study of tissues, comes from the same word, while tissue itself comes from texere.
  6. -teks,*teks-#etymonline_v_52573; Ellen Harlizius-Klück, “Arithmetics and Weaving from Penelope’s Loom to Computing,” Münchner Wissenschaftstage (poster), October 18–21, 2008; Patricia Marks Greenfield, Weaving Generations Together: Evolving Creativity in the Maya of Chiapas (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 2004), 151; sutra,; tantra,; Cheng Weiji, ed., History of Textile Technology in Ancient China (New York: Science Press, 1992), 2.
  7. David Hume, “Of Refinement in the Arts,” in Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, ed. Eugene F. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1987), 273,
  8. Italicized terms, such as warp, weft, and strip cloths here, may be found in the glossary.

Chapter One: Fiber

  1. Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Women’s Work, the First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994), 45.
  2. Karen Hardy, “Prehistoric String Theory: How Twisted Fibres Helped Shape the World,” Antiquity 82, no. 316 (June 2008): 275. Nowadays Papua New Guineans tend to use commercially available yarn, which also offers a wider range of colors and textures, to make the versatile string bags called bilums. Barbara Andersen, “Style and Self-Making: String Bag Production in the Papua New Guinea Highlands,” Anthropology Today 31, no. 5 (October 2015): 16–20.
  3. M. L. Ryder, Sheep & Man (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1983), 3–85; Melinda A. Zeder, “Domestication and Early Agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, Diffusion, and Impact,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, no. 33 (August 19, 2003): 11597–11604; Marie-Louise Nosch, “The Wool Age: Traditions and Innovations in Textile Production, Consumption and Administration in the Late Bronze Age Aegean” (paper presented at the Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, CA, September 10–14, 2014).
  4. In contemporary terminology, linseed oil, which is inedible because of the way it is processed, is sometimes distinguished from flaxseed oil, which is usually eaten as a nutritional supplement. In prehistoric times, there was no difference other than use, and even today linseed oil may refer to any oil made by pressing flaxseeds.
  5. Ehud Weiss and Daniel Zohary, “The Neolithic Southwest Asian Founder Crops: Their Biology and Archaeobotany,” Supplement, Current Anthropology 52, no. S4 (October 2011): S237–S254; Robin G. Allaby, Gregory W. Peterson, David Andrew Merriwether, and Yong-Bi Fu, “Evidence of the Domestication History of Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) from Genetic Diversity of the sad2 Locus,” Theoretical and Applied Genetics 112, no. 1 (January 2006): 58–65. Whether plant alterations were conscious or unconscious is a matter of considerable scholarly debate because we can observe only the types of changes, not what the humans who made them were thinking. Although genetic analysis shows signs of selective breeding, dense planting also encourages flax to grow taller.
  6. Samples of linen yarn were radiocarbon dated to 8,850 years old, plus or minus 90 years, and 9,210 years old, plus or minus 300 years. Twined and knotted fabric samples were dated to 8,500 years old, plus or minus 220 years, and 8,810 years old, plus or minus 120 years. Tamar Schick, “Cordage, Basketry, and Fabrics,” in Nahal Hemar Cave, ed. Ofer Bar-Yosef and David Alon (Jerusalem: Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, 1988), 31–38.
  7. Jonathan Wendel, interviews with the author, September 21, 2017, and September 26, 2017, and email to the author, September 30, 2017; Susan V. Fisk, “Not Your Grandfather’s Cotton,” Crop Science Society of America, February 3, 2016,; Jonathan Wendel, “Phylogenetic History of Gossypium,” video,; J. F. Wendel, “New World Tetraploid Cottons Contain Old World Cytoplasm,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 86, no. 11 (June 1989): 4132–4136; Jonathan F. Wendel and Corrinne E. Grover, “Taxonomy and Evolution of the Cotton Genus, Gossypium,” in Cotton, ed. David D. Fang and Richard G. Percy (Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy, 2015), 25–44,; Jonathan F. Wendel, Paul D. Olson, and James McD. Stewart, “Genetic Diversity, Introgression, and Independent Domestication of Old World Cultivated Cotton,” American Journal of Botany 76, no. 12 (December 1989): 1795–1806; C. L. Brubaker, F. M. Borland, and J. F. Wendel, “The Origin and Domestication of Cotton,” in Cotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production, ed. C. Wayne Smith and J. Tom Cothren (New York: John Wiley, 1999): 3–31.
  8. Another possibility is that early-blooming cotton resisted pests, which was the case with the boll weevil in the southern United States.
  9. Elizabeth Baker Brite and John M. Marston, “Environmental Change, Agricultural Innovation, and the Spread of Cotton Agriculture in the Old World,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32, no. 1 (March 2013): 39–53; Mac Marston, interview with the author, July 20, 2017; Liz Brite, interview with the author, June 30, 2017; Elizabeth Baker Brite, Gairatdin Khozhaniyazov, John M. Marston, Michelle Negus Cleary, and Fiona J. Kidd, “Kara-tepe, Karakalpakstan: Agropastoralism in a Central Eurasian Oasis in the 4th/5th Century A.D. Transition,” Journal of Field Archaeology 42 (2017): 514–529,
  10. Kim MacQuarrie, The Last Days of the Incas (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), 27–28, 58, 60; David Tollen, “Pre-Columbian Cotton Armor: Better than Steel,” Pints of History, August 10, 2011,; Frances Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, The Essential Codex Mendoza (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 186.
  11. Sea Island cotton is a variety of Gossypium barbadense, the species originally cultivated in Peru; this species also includes long-staple pima cotton (and its trademarked variant Supima) and some so-called Egyptian cottons. More common “upland” cotton varieties are types of Gossypium hirsutum, the shorter-fiber species first cultivated on the Yucatan Peninsula. G. hirsutum currently accounts for about 90 percent of the world’s commercial cotton, while G. barbadense makes up most of the rest. Whether generated randomly by nature or bred intentionally to enhance certain traits, a variety is a particular manifestation of the same species, as a poodle and a Great Dane are both dogs.
  12. Jane Thompson-Stahr, The Burling Books: Ancestors and Descendants of Edward and Grace Burling, Quakers (1600–2000) (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 2001), 314–322; Robert Lowry and William H. McCardle, The History of Mississippi for Use in Schools (New York: University Publishing Company, 1900), 58–59.
  13. John Hebron Moore, “Cotton Breeding in the Old South,” Agricultural History 30, no. 3 (July 1956): 95–104; Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode, Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 98–133; O. L. May and K. E. Lege, “Development of the World Cotton Industry” in Cotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production, ed. C. Wayne Smith and J. Tom Cothren (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999), 77–78.
  14. Gavin Wright, Slavery and American Economic Development (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006), 85; Dunbar Rowland, The Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi 1912 (Nashville, TN: Press of Brandon Printing, 1912), 135–136.
  15. Edward E. Baptist, “‘Stol’ and Fetched Here’: Enslaved Migration, Ex-slave Narratives, and Vernacular History,” in New Studies in the History of American Slavery, ed. Edward E. Baptist and Stephanie M. H. Camp (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006), 243–274; Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration, Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves, Vol. IX (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1941), 151–156,
  16. In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, the United States produced 4.56 million bales of cotton, a figure that dropped to 4.4 million in 1870 and jumped to 6.6 million in 1880. Between 1860 and 1870, the number of Southern cotton farms 40 hectares or smaller grew by 55 percent as former plantations were broken up and sold. Both black and white Southerners now worked as farm laborers, either on their own land, as sharecroppers, or as hired hands. The 1880s brought effective fertilization and new cotton breeds with larger bolls, making picking easier. May and Lege, “Development of the World Cotton Industry,” 84–87; David J. Libby, Slavery and Frontier Mississippi 1720–1835 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 37–78. On the productivity effects and advantages to owners of property rights in slaves, see Wright, Slavery and American Economic Development, 83–122.
  17. Cyrus McCormick, The Century of the Reaper (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 1–2,; Bonnie V. Winston, “Jo Anderson,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 5, 2013, 4bcf6878.html.
  18. Moore, “Cotton Breeding in the Old South,” 99–101; M. W. Philips, “Cotton Seed,” Vicksburg (MS) Weekly Sentinel, April 28, 1847, 1. For additional background on Philips, see Solon Robinson, Solon Robinson, Pioneer and Agriculturalist: Selected Writings, Vol. II, ed. Herbert Anthony Kellar (Indianapolis: Indianapolis Historical Bureau, 1936), 127–131.
  19. Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode, “Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development” (NBER Working Paper No. 16494, Development of the American Economy, National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2010); Olmsted and Rhode, Creating Abundance, 98–133; Edward E. Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 111–144, argues that the productivity boost came from more effective methods of driving and torturing slaves, leading them to pick more efficiently. But the productivity increases are too large for that explanation, and the effects of new seeds are well documented. A better reading of the evidence is that plantation managers drove their slaves to pick as fast as seed technology allowed. John E. Murray, Alan L. Olmstead, Trevor D. Logan, Jonathan B. Pritchett, and Peter L. Rousseau, “Roundtable of Reviews for The Half Has Never Been Told,” Journal of Economic History, September 2015, 919–931; “Baptism by Blood Cotton,” Pseudoerasmus, September 12, 2014,, and “The Baptist Question Redux: Emancipation and Cotton Productivity,” Pseudoerasmus, November 5, 2015,
  20. Yuxuan Gong, Li Li, Decai Gong, Hao Yin, and Juzhong Zhang, “Biomolecular Evidence of Silk from 8,500 Years Ago,” PLOS One 11, no. 12 (December 12, 2016): e0168042,; “World’s Oldest Silk Fabrics Discovered in Central China,” Archaeology News Network, December 5, 2019,; Dieter Kuhn, “Tracing a Chinese Legend: In Search of the Identity of the ‘First Sericulturalist,’” T’oung Pao, nos. 4/5 (1984): 213–245.
  21. Angela Yu-Yun Sheng, Textile Use, Technology, and Change in Rural Textile Production in Song, China (960–1279) (unpublished dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 185–186.
  22. Sheng, Textile Use, Technology, and Change, 23–40, 200–209.
  23. J. R. Porter, “Agostino Bassi Bicentennial (1773–1973),” Bacteriological Reviews 37, no. 3 (September 1973): 284–288; Agostino Bassi, Del Mal del Segno Calcinaccio o Moscardino (Lodi: Dalla Tipografia Orcesi, 1835), 1–16, translations by the author; George H. Scherr, Why Millions Died (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000), 78–98, 141–152; Seymore S. Block, “Historical Review,” in Disinfection, Sterilization, and Preservation, 5th ed., ed. Seymour Stanton Block (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001), 12.
  24. Patrice Debré, Louis Pasteur (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 177–218; Scherr, Why Millions Died, 110.
  25. “The Cattle Disease in France,” Journal of the Society of the Arts, March 30, 1866, 347; Omori Minoru, “Some Matters in the Study of von Siebold from the Past to the Present and New Materials Found in Relation to Siebold and His Works,” Historia scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan, no. 27 (September 1984): 96.
  26. Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Sericulture and the Origins of Japanese Industrialization,”Technology and Culture 33, no. 1 (January 1992): 101–121.
  27. Debin Ma, “The Modern Silk Road: The Global Raw-Silk Market, 1850–1930,” Journal of Economic History 56, no. 2 (June 1996): 330–355,; Debin Ma, “Why Japan, Not China, Was the First to Develop in East Asia: Lessons from Sericulture, 1850–1937,” Economic Development and Cultural Change 52, no. 2 (January 2004): 369–394,
  28. David Breslauer, Sue Levin, Dan Widmaier, and Ethan Mirsky, interviews with the author, February 19, 2016; Sue Levin, interview with the author, August 10, 2015; Jamie Bainbridge and Dan Widmaier, interviews with the author, February 8, 2017; Dan Widmaier, interviews with the author, March 21, 2018, and May 1, 2018.
  29. Mary M. Brooks, “‘Astonish the World with Your New Fiber Mixture’: Producing, Promoting, and Forgetting Man-Made Protein Fibers,” in The Age of Plastic: Ingenuity and Responsibility, Proceedings of the 2012 MCI Symposium, ed. Odile Madden, A. Elena Charola, Kim Cullen, Cobb, Paula T. DePriest, and Robert J. Koestler (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2017), 36–50,; National Dairy Products Corporation, “The Cow, the Milkmaid and the Chemist,”;British Pathé, “Making Wool from Milk (1937),” YouTube video, 1:24, April 13, 2014,; Michael Waters, “How Clothing Made from Milk Became the Height of Fashion in Mussolini’s Italy,” Atlas Obscura, July 28, 2017,; Maggie Koerth-Baker, “Aralac: The ‘Wool’ Made from Milk,” Boing Boing, October 28, 2012, https://boing
  30. Dan Widmaier, interview with the author, December 16, 2019.

Chapter Two: Thread

  1. Yarn and thread are synonyms and used interchangeably here. In the textile industry, yarn usually refers to all thread intended for weaving or knitting, whereas thread often refers specifically to sewing or embroidery yarn. String is usually reserved for cord used for tying or binding things, although all yarn and thread are also string.
  2. Cordula Greve, “Shaping Reality through the Fictive: Images of Women Spinning in the Northern Renaissance,” RACAR: Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review 19, nos. 1–2 (1992): 11–12.
  3. Patricia Baines, Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning (London: B. T. Batsford, 1977), 88–89.
  4. Dominika Maja Kossowska-Janik, “Cotton and Wool: Textile Economy in the Serakhs Oasis during the Late Sasanian Period, the Case of Spindle Whorls from Gurukly Depe (Turkmenistan),” Ethnobiology Letters 7, no. 2 (2016): 107–116.
  5. Elizabeth Barber, interview with the author, October 22, 2016; E. J. W. Barber, Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), xxii.
  6. Steven Vogel, Why the Wheel Is Round: Muscles, Technology, and How We Make Things Move (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 205–208.
  7. Sally Heaney, “From Spinning Wheels to Inner Peace,” Boston Globe, May 23, 2004,
  8. Giovanni Fanelli, Firenze: Architettura e città (Florence: Vallecchi, 1973), 125–126; Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field & Tuer, 1888), 119; Yvonne Elet, “Seats of Power: The Outdoor Benches of Early Modern Florence,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 61, no. 4 (December 2002): 451, 466n; Sheilagh Ogilvie, A Bitter Living: Women, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 166; Hans Medick, “Village Spinning Bees: Sexual Culture and Free Time among Rural Youth in Early Modern Germany,” in Interest and Emotion: Essays on the Study of Family and Kinship, ed. Hans Medick and David Warren Sabean (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 317–339.
  9. Tapan Raychaudhuri, Irfan Habib, and Dharma Kumar, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of India: Volume 1, c. 1200–c. 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 78.
  10. Rachel Rosenzweig, Worshipping Aphrodite: Art and Cult in Classical Athens (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 69; Marina Fischer, “Hetaira’s Kalathos: Prostitutes and the Textile Industry in Ancient Greece,” Ancient History Bulletin, 2011, 9–28,
  11. Linda A. Stone-Ferrier, Images of Textiles: The Weave of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Society (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985), 83–117; Incogniti scriptoris nova Poemata, ante hac nunquam edita, Nieuwe Nederduytsche, Gedichten ende Raedtselen, 1624, trans. Linda A. Stone-Ferrier,
  12. Susan M. Spawn, “Hand Spinning and Cotton in the Aztec Empire, as Revealed by the Codex Mendoza,” in Silk Roads, Other Roads: Textile Society of America 8th Biennial Symposium, September 26–28, 2002, Smith College, Northampton, MA, https://; Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, The Essential Codex Mendoza (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 158–164.
  13. Constance Hoffman Berman, “Women’s Work in Family, Village, and Town after 1000 CE: Contributions to Economic Growth?,” Journal of Women’s History 19, no. 3 (Fall 2007): 10–32.
  14. This calculation assumes 1.75 yards of 60-inch-wide fabric, or a total of 3,780 square inches, with 62 warp threads and 40 weft threads per square inch.
  15. Denim typically uses warp thread that runs 5,880 yards, or 3.34 miles, to the pound and weft thread that runs 5,040 yards, or 2.86 miles, to the pound. “Weaving with Denim Yarn,” Textile Technology (blog), April 21, 2009,; Cotton Incorporated, “An Iconic Staple,” Lifestyle Monitor, August 10, 2016,; A. S. Bhalla, “Investment Allocation and Technological Choice—a Case of Cotton Spinning Techniques,” Economic Journal 74, no. 295 (September 1964): 611–622, uses an estimate of 50 pounds of thread in 300 days, or 1 pound in 6 days.
  16. A twin sheet is 72 inches by 102 inches, or 7,344 square inches. With 250 threads per square inch, that amounts to 1,836,000 inches, or 34.9 miles. A queen-size sheet is 92 inches by 102 inches, or 9,384 square inches. With 250 threads per square inch, that equals 2,346,200 inches, or 37 miles.
  17. R. Patterson, “Wool Manufacture of Halifax,” Quarterly Journal of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers, March 1958, 18–19. Patterson reports a spinning rate of 1 pound of wool per 12-hour day for medium-weight yarn. The calculation assumes 1,100 meters per pound. Merrick Posnansky, “Traditional Cloth from the Ewe Heartland,” in History, Design, and Craft in West African Strip-Woven Cloth: Papers Presented at a Symposium Organized by the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, February 18–19, 1988 (Washington, DC: National Museum of African Art, 1992), 127–128. Posnansky records that it took a minimum of two days to spin a single skein of cotton and that a woman’s cloth took a minimum of seventeen skeins. Dimensions vary, but a traditional Ewe woman’s cloth is about 1 yard by 2 yards.
  18. Ed Franquemont, “Andean Spinning Slower by the Hour, Faster by the Week,” in Handspindle Treasury: Spinning Around the World (Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 2011), 13–14. Franquemont writes that it took “nearly 20 hours of work to spin a pound of yarn,” which I have converted to 44 hours to spin a kilogram.
  19. Eva Andersson, Linda Mårtensson, Marie-Louise B. Nosch, and Lorenz Rahmstorf, “New Research on Bronze Age Textile Production,” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 51 (2008): 171–174. The kilometer assumes 10 threads per square centimeter, or about 65 per square inch, which is significantly less than the 102 threads in a typical square inch of denim. That density is ignored in this calculation. The figure of 3,780 square inches used above is equivalent to 2.4 square meters.
  20. Mary Harlow, “Textile Crafts and History,” in Traditional Textile Craft: An Intangible Heritage?, 2nd ed., ed. Camilla Ebert, Sidsel Frisch, Mary Harlow, Eva Andersson Strand, and Lena Bjerregaard (Copenhagen: Centre for Textile Research, 2018), 133–139.
  21. Eva Andersson Strand, “Segel och segelduksproduktion i arkeologisk kontext,” in Vikingetidens sejl: Festsrift tilegnet Erik Andersen, ed. Morten Ravn, Lone Gebauer Thomsen, Eva Andersson Strand, and Henriette Lyngstrøm (Copenhagen: Saxo-Instituttet, 2016), 24; Eva Andersson Strand, “Tools and Textiles—Production and Organisation in Birka and Hedeby,” in Viking Settlements and Viking Society: Papers from the Proceedings of the Sixteenth Viking Congress, ed. Svavar Sigmunddsson (Reykjavík: University of Iceland Press, 2011), 298–308; Lise Bender Jørgensen, “The Introduction of Sails to Scandinavia: Raw Materials, Labour and Land,” N-TAG TEN. Proceedings of the 10th Nordic TAG Conference at Stiklestad, Norway 2009 (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2012); Claire Eamer, “No Wool, No Vikings,” Hakai Magazine, February 23, 2016,
  22. Ragnheidur Bogadóttir, “Fleece: Imperial Metabolism in the Precolumbian Andes,” in Ecology and Power: Struggles over Land and Material Resources in the Past, Present and Future, ed. Alf Hornborg, Brett Clark, and Kenneth Hermele (New York: Routledge, 2012), 87, 90.
  23. Luca Mola, The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 232–234.
  24. Dieter Kuhn, “The Spindle-Wheel: A Chou Chinese Invention,” Early China 5 (1979): 14–24,
  25. Flavio Crippa, “Garlate e l’Industria Serica,” Memorie e Tradizioni, Teleunica, January 28, 2015. Translation by the author based on transcript prepared by Dalila Cataldi, January 25, 2017. Flavio Crippa, interviews with the author, March 27 and 29, 2017; email to the author, May 14, 2018.
  26. Carlo Poni, “The Circular Silk Mill: A Factory Before the Industrial Revolution in Early Modern Europe,” in History of Technology, Vol. 21, ed. Graham Hollister-Short (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 1999), 65–85; Carlo Poni, “Standards, Trust and Civil Discourse: Measuring the Thickness and Quality of Silk Thread,” in History of Technology, Vol. 23, ed. Ian Inkster (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2001), 1–16; Giuseppe Chicco, “L’innovazione Tecnologica nella Lavorazione della Seta in Piedmonte a Metà Seicento,” Studi Storici, January–March 1992, 195–215.
  27. Roberto Davini, “A Global Supremacy: The Worldwide Hegemony of the Piedmontese Reeling Technologies, 1720s–1830s,” in History of Technology, Vol. 32, ed. Ian Inkster (London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), 87–103; Claudio Zanier, “Le Donne e il Ciclo della Seta,” in Percorsi di Lavoro e Progetti di Vita Femminili, ed. Laura Savelli and Alessandra Martinelli (Pisa: Felici Editore), 25–46; Claudio Zanier, emails to the author, November 17 and 29, 2016.
  28. John Styles, interview with the author, May 16, 2018.
  29. Arthur Young, A Six Months Tour through the North of England, 2nd ed. (London:
  30. W. Strahan, 1771), 3:163–164, 3:187–202; Arthur Young, A Six Months Tour through the North of England (London: W. Strahan, 1770), 4:582. Spinners were paid on a piecework basis and didn’t necessarily spin all day, but Young consistently asked about weekly earnings for full-time work. Craig Muldrew, “‘Th’ancient Distaff’ and ‘Whirling Spindle’: Measuring the Contribution of Spinning to Household Earning and the National Economy in England, 1550–1770,” Economic History Review 65, no. 2 (2012): 498–526.
  31. Deborah Valenze, The First Industrial Woman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 72–73.
  32. John James, History of the Worsted Manufacture in England, from the Earliest Times (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1857), 280–281; James Bischoff, Woollen and Worsted Manufacturers and the Natural and Commercial History of Sheep, from the Earliest Records to the Present Period (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1862), 185.
  33. Beverly Lemire, Cotton (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 78–79.
  34. John Styles, “Fashion, Textiles and the Origins of the Industrial Revolution,” East Asian Journal of British History, no. 5 (March 2016): 161–189; Jeremy Swan, “Derby Silk Mill,” University of Derby Magazine, November 27, 2016, 32–34, and; “John Lombe: Silk Weaver,” Derby Blue Plaques, Financial information from Clive Emsley, Tim Hitchcock, and Robert Shoemaker, “London History—Currency, Coinage and the Cost of Living,” Old Bailey Proceedings Online,
  35. Styles, “Fashion, Textiles and the Origins of the Industrial Revolution,” and interview with the author, May 16, 2018; R. S. Fitton, The Arkwrights: Spinners of Fortune (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1989), 8–17.
  36. Lemire, Cotton, 80–83.
  37. Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital, Transformed the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 8.
  38. David Sasso, interviews with the author, May 22–23, 2018. The calculation is based on spinning four pounds a week, which is taken from Jane Humphries and Benjamin Schneider, “Spinning the Industrial Revolution,” Economic History Review 72, no. 1 (May 23, 2018),

Chapter Three: Cloth

  1. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Intensive Textile Course, Textile Research Centre, September 15, 2015.
  2. Kalliope Sarri, “Neolithic Textiles in the Aegean” (presentation at Centre for Textile Research, Copenhagen, September 22, 2015); Kalliope Sarri, “In the Mind of Early Weavers: Perceptions of Geometry, Metrology and Value in the Neolithic Aegean” (workshop abstract, “Textile Workers: Skills, Labour and Status of Textile Craftspeople between Prehistoric Aegean and Ancient Near East,” Tenth International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Vienna, April 25, 2016),
  3. sarah-marie belcastro, “Every Topological Surface Can Be Knit: A Proof,” Journal of Mathematics and the Arts 3 (June 2009): 67–83; sarah-marie belcastro and Carolyn Yackel, “About Knitting,” Math Horizons 14 (November 2006): 24–27, 39.
  4. Carrie Brezine, “Algorithms and Automation: The Production of Mathematics and Textiles,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics, ed. Eleanor Robson and Jacqueline Stedall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 490.
  5. Victor H. Mair, “Ancient Mummies of the Tarim Basin,” Expedition, Fall 2016, 25– 29,
  6. O. Soffer, J. M. Adovasio, and D. C. Hyland, “The ‘Venus’ figurines: Textiles, Basketry, Gender, and Status in the Upper Paleolithic,” Current Anthropology 41, no. 4 (August–October 2000): 511–537.
  7. Jennifer Moore, “Doubleweaving with Jennifer Moore,” Weave podcast, May 24, 2019, Episode 65, 30:30,
  8. Technically satin is warp-faced and sateen is weft-faced, but the term satin is usually applied to the basic structure, for which the principle is the same.
  9. Tien Chiu, interview with the author, July 11, 2018.
  10. Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, “Notes upon the Memoir by the Translator,” in L. F. Menabrea, “Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage,” Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève, no. 82 (October 1842),
  11. E. M. Franquemont and C. R. Franquemont, “Tanka, Chongo, Kutij: Structure of the World through Cloth,” in Symmetry Comes of Age: The Role of Pattern in Culture, ed. Dorothy K. Washburn and Donald W. Crowe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004), 177–214; Edward Franquemont and Christine Franquemont, “Learning to Weave in Chinchero,” Textile Museum Journal 26 (1987): 55–78; Ann Peters, “Ed Franquemont (February 17, 1945–March 11, 2003),” Andean Past 8 (2007): art. 10,
  12. Lynn Arthur Steen, “The Science of Patterns,” Science 240, no. 4852 (April 29, 1988): 611–616.
  13. Euclid’s Elements,
  14. Ellen Harlizius-Klück, interview with the author, August 7, 2018, and emails to the author, August 28, August 29, September 13, 2018; Ellen Harlizius-Klück, “Arithmetics and Weaving: From Penelope’s Loom to Computing,” Münchner Wissenschaftstage, October 18–21, 2008,; Ellen Harlizius-Klück and Giovanni Fanfani, “(B)orders in Ancient Weaving and Archaic Greek Poetry,” in Spinning Fates and the Song of the Loom: The Use of Textiles, Clothing and Cloth Production as Metaphor, Symbol and Narrative Device in Greek and Latin Literature, ed. Giovanni Fanfani, Mary Harlow, and Marie-Louise Nosch (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2016), 61–99.
  15. Rather than a loom, per se, the border was probably created using tablet weaving, in which warp threads run through holes at the corners of a square card—back then of wood or clay, today of cardboard or plastic. The weaver stretches the threads tight by tying them to posts, and the top and bottom of the cards create the shed. By turning the cards either all at once or selectively, the weaver locks in the weft threads and can create patterns using different colors. The more cards, the more complex the pattern can be.
  16. Jane McIntosh Snyder, “The Web of Song: Weaving Imagery in Homer and the Lyric Poets,” Classical Journal 76, no. 3 (February/March 1981): 193–196; Plato, The Being of the Beautiful: Plato’s Thaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman, trans. with commentary by Seth Bernadete (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), III.31–III.33, III.66–III.67, III.107–III.113.
  17. Sheramy D. Bundrick, “The Fabric of the City: Imaging Textile Production in Classical Athens,” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 77, no. 2 (April–June 2008): 283–334; Monica Bowen, “Two Panathenaic Peploi: A Robe and a Tapestry,” Alberti’s Window (blog), June 28, 2017,; Evy Johanne Håland, “Athena’s Peplos: Weaving as a Core Female Activity in Ancient and Modern Greece,” Cosmos 20 (2004): 155–182,; E. J. W. Barber, “The Peplos of Athena,” in Goddess and Polis: The Panathenaic Festival in Ancient Athens, ed. Jenifer Neils (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 103–117.
  18. Donald E. Knuth, Art of Computer Programming, Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms (Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2014), 294.
  19. Anthony Tuck, “Singing the Rug: Patterned Textiles and the Origins of Indo-European Metrical Poetry,” American Journal of Archaeology 110, no. 4 (October 2006): 539– 550; John Kimberly Mumford, Oriental Rugs (New York: Scribner, 1921), 25. For examples of war rugs, which originated during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, see Mimi Kirk, “Rug-of-War,” Smithsonian, February 4, 2008, For an example of rug weavers singing their patterns, see Roots Revival, “Pattern Singing in Iran—‘The Woven Sounds’—Demo Documentary by Mehdi Aminian,” YouTube video, 10:00, March 15, 2019, .
  20. Eric Boudot and Chris Buckley, The Roots of Asian Weaving: The He Haiyan Collection of Textiles and Looms from Southwest China (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2015), 165–169.
  21. Malika Kraamer, “Ghanaian Interweaving in the Nineteenth Century: A New Perspective on Ewe and Asante Textile History,” African Arts, Winter 2006, 44. For more on this topic, see Chapter 6.
  22. “Ancestral Textile Replicas: Recreating the Past, Weaving the Present, Inspiring the Future” (exhibition, Museum and Catacombs of San Francisco de Asís of the City of Cusco, November 2017).
  23. Nancy Arthur Hoskins, “Woven Patterns on Tutankhamun Textiles,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 47 (2011): 199–215,
  24. Richard Rutt, A History of Hand Knitting (London: B. T. Batsford, 1987), 4–5, 8–9, 23, 32–39. Native peoples in a region encompassing parts of today’s Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil separately developed their own form of knitting. Rutt notes that the words used to describe knitting appear no earlier than the early modern period and in many places were borrowed either from other countries—Russian adapted the French term tricot, for instance—or other textile crafts. “The contrast with words of ‘weaving’ is striking,” he writes. “In most languages there is a precise, ancient and well developed vocabulary for weaving. Weaving is older than history. The apparently simple process of knitting turns out to be much less ancient.”
  25. Anne DesMoines, interview with the author, December 8, 2019; Anne DesMoines, “Eleanora of Toledo Stockings,” -toledo-stockings. DesMoines says her published pattern is somewhat simplified compared to her exact reproduction, which includes more complicated shaping.
  26. Although the examples of the cloth survived, sometime after the Spanish conquest, Andean weavers forgot an image-making technique called double weave pickup, which they’d used for thousands of years. In 2012, the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco recruited Jennifer Moore, an American double weave artist and teacher, to reintroduce the technique to master weavers, who could pass it on to others. An English speaker accustomed to floor looms, she spent a year preparing. Jennifer Moore, “Teaching in Peru,”
  27. Patricia Hilts, The Weavers Art Revealed: Facsimile, Translation, and Study of the First Two Published Books on Weaving: Marx Ziegler’s Weber Kunst und Bild Buch (1677) and Nathaniel Lumscher’s Neu eingerichtetes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch (1708), Vol. I (Winnipeg, Canada: Charles Babbage Research Centre, 1990), 9–56, 97–109.
  28. Joel Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 28–77.
  29. Ellen Harlizius-Klück, “Weaving as Binary Art and the Algebra of Patterns,” Textile 1, no. 2 (April 2017): 176–197.
  30. If the ground and supplementary weft were the same color, the resulting fabric would be a damask.
  31. Demonstration at “A World of Looms,” China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, June 1–4, 2018. Before inexpensive nylon string, thin bamboo rods were used, as they still are for simple patterns. Deb McClintock, “The Lao Khao Tam Huuk, One of the Foundations of Lao Pattern Weaving,” Looms of Southeast Asia, January 31, 2017,; Deb McClintock, interview with the author, October 18, 2018; Wendy Garrity, “Laos: Making a New Pattern Heddle,” Textile Trails,
  32. E. J. W. Barber, Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 137–140.
  33. Boudot and Buckley, The Roots of Asian Weaving, 180–185, 292–307, 314–327; Chris Buckley, email to the author, October 21, 2018.
  34. Boudot and Buckley, The Roots of Asian Weaving, 422–426.
  35. Boudot and Buckley, The Roots of Asian Weaving, 40–44.
  36. Claire Berthommier, “The History of Silk Industry in Lyon” (presentation at the Dialogue with Silk between Europe and Asia: History, Technology and Art Conference, Lyon, November 30, 2017).
  37. Daryl M. Hafter, “Philippe de Lasalle: From Mise-en-carte to Industrial Design,” Winterthur Portfolio, 1977, 139–164; Lesley Ellis Miller, “The Marriage of Art and Commerce: Philippe de Lasalle’s Success in Silk,” Art History 28, no. 2 (April 2005): 200–222; Berthommier, “The History of Silk Industry in Lyon”; Rémi Labrusse, “Interview with Jean-Paul Leclercq,” trans. Trista Selous, Perspective, 2016,; Guy Scherrer, “Weaving Figured Textiles: Before the Jacquard Loom and After” (presentation at Conference on World Looms, China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, May 31, 2018), YouTube video, 18:27, June 29, 2018,; Alfred Barlow, The History and Principles of Weaving by Hand and by Power (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1878), 128–139.
  38. Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Joseph Marie Jacquard, 1839,”; Charles Babbage, Passages in the Life of a Philosopher (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1864), 169–170.
  39. Rev. R. Willis, “On Machinery and Woven Fabrics,” in Report on the Paris Exhibition of 1855, Part II, 150, quoted in Barlow, The History and Principles of Weaving by Hand and by Power, 140–141.
  40. James Payton, “Weaving,” in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. 24, ed. Spencer Baynes and W. Robertson Smith (Akron: Werner Co., 1905), 491–492,; Victoria and Albert Museum, “How Was It Made? Jacquard Weaving,” YouTube video, 3:34, October 8, 2015,; T. F. Bell, Jacquard Looms: Harness Weaving (Read Books, 2010), Kindle edition reprint of T. F. Bell, Jacquard Weaving and Designing (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1895).
  41. James Essinger, Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 35–38; Jeremy Norman, “The Most Famous Image in the Early History of Computing,” Historyof,; Yiva Fernaeus, Martin Jonsson, and Jakob Tholander, “Revisiting the Jacquard Loom: Threads of History and Current Patterns in HCI,” CHI ’12: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, May 5–10, 2012, 1593–1602,
  42. Gadagne Musées, “The Jacquard Loom,” inv.50.144, Room 21: Social Laboratory—19th C.,; Barlow, The History and Principles of Weaving by Hand and by Power, 144–147; Charles Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin, “Historical Alternatives to Mass Production: Politics, Markets and Technology in Nineteenth-Century Industrialization,” Past and Present, no. 108 (August 1985): 133–176; Anna Bezanson, “The Early Use of the Term Industrial Revolution,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 36, no. 2 (February 1922): 343–349; Ronald Aminzade, “Reinterpreting Capitalist Industrialization: A Study of Nineteenth-Century France,” Social History 9, no. 3 (October 1984): 329–350. Although they eventually accepted the new technology, Lyonnais workers didn’t remain quiescent. The uprisings of the canuts, or silk workers, in 1831 and 1834 are milestones in French labor and political history.
  43. James Burke, “Connections Episode 4: Faith in Numbers,”; F. G. Heath, “The Origins of the Binary Code,” Scientific American, August 1972, 76–83.
  44. Robin Kang, interview with the author, January 9, 2018; Rolfe Bozier, “How Magnetic Core Memory Works,” Rolfe Bozier (blog), August 10, 2015,; Stephen H. Kaisler, Birthing the Computer: From Drums to Cores (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017), 73–75; Daniela K. Rosner, Samantha Shorey, Brock R. Craft, and Helen Remick, “Making Core Memory: Design Inquiry into Gendered Legacies of Engineering and Craftwork,” Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’18), paper 531,
  45. Core memory was RAM (random-access memory), whereas rope memory was ROM (read-only memory).
  46. David A. Mindell, Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spacefight (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 154–157; David Mindell interview in Moon Machines: The Navigation Computer, YouTube video, Nick Davidson and Christopher Riley (directors), 2008, 44:21,;Robert McMillan, “Her Code Got Humans on the Moon—and Invented Software Itself,” Wired, October 13, 2015,
  47. Frederick Dill, quoted in Rosner et al., “Making Core Memory.”
  48. Fiber Year Consulting, The Fiber Year 2017 (Fiber Year, 2017), In 2016, knitting accounted for 57 percent of worldwide fabric sales by weight, compared to 32 percent for weaving, with knitting sales growing at 5 percent a year, compared to 2 percent for weaving.
  49. Stanley Chapman, Hosiery and Knitwear: Four Centuries of Small-Scale Industry in Britain c. 1589–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), xx–27, 66–67. Chapman argues convincingly that in the Midlands, where framework knitting flourished, ordinary blacksmiths—not, say, silversmiths or clockmakers—developed the skills to make the required parts. Local smiths were known for their fine work, and there are no records of these other crafts. Pseudoerasmus, “The Calico Acts: Was British Cotton Made Possible by Infant Industry Protection from Indian Competition?” Pseudoerasmus (blog), January 5, 2017, For a video explaining how the stocking frame worked, see
  50. Vidya Narayanan and Jim McCann, interviews with the author, August 6, 2019; Vidya Narayanan, interview with the author, December 11, 2019, and email to the author, December 11, 2019; Michael Seiz, interviews with the author, December 10, 2019, and December 11, 2019; Randall Harward, interview with the author, November 12, 2019; Vidya Narayanan, Kui Wu, Cem Yuksel, and James McCann, “Visual Knitting Machine Programming,” ACM Transactions on Graphics 38, no. 4 (July 2019),

Chapter Four: Dye

  1. Tom D. Dillehay, “Relevance,” in Where the Land Meets the Sea: Fourteen Millennia of Human History at Huaca Prieta, Peru, ed. Tom D. Dillehay (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017), 3–28; Jeffrey Splitstoser, “Twined and Woven Artifacts: Part 1: Textiles,” in Where the Land Meets the Sea, 458–524; Jeffrey C. Splitstoser, Tom D. Dillehay, Jan Wouters, and Ana Claro, “Early Pre-Hispanic Use of Indigo Blue in Peru,” Science Advances 2, no. 9 (September 14, 2016), In addition to blue, the fragments also have stripes made by plying cotton with the bright-white fibers of a milkweed-like shrub.
  2. Dominique Cardon, Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition Technology and Science, trans. Caroline Higgett (London: Archetype, 2007), 1, 51, 167–176, 242–250, 360, 409–411.
  3. Zvi C. Koren, “Modern Chemistry of the Ancient Chemical Processing of Organic Dyes and Pigments,” in Chemical Technology in Antiquity, ed. Seth C. Rasmussen, ACS Symposium Series (Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 2015), 197; Cardon, Natural Dyes, 51.
  4. John Marshall, Singing the Blues: Soulful Dyeing for All Eternity (Covelo, CA: Saint Titus Press, 2018), 11–12. Some indigo plants, including woad, contain other indoxyl precursors as well.
  5. Plant-derived dyes can look richer than synthetic colors because they include more than one color compound.
  6. Deborah Netburn, “6,000-Year-Old Fabric Reveals Peruvians Were Dyeing Textiles with Indigo Long Before Egyptians,” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 2016,
  7. A highly acidic solution would also work, but historically indigo dyers have used alkaline additives. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 336–353.
  8. Jenny Balfour-Paul, Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans (Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2011), 121–122.
  9. Balfour-Paul, Indigo, 41–42.
  10. Alyssa Harad, “Blue Monday: Adventures in Indigo,” Alyssa Harad, November 12, 2012,; Cardon, Natural Dyes, 369; Graham Keegan workshop, December 14, 2018.
  11. Balfour-Paul, Indigo, 9, 13.
  12. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 51, 336–353.
  13. Graham Keegan, interview with the author, December 14, 2018.
  14. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 571; Mark Cartwright, “Tyrian Purple,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, July 21, 2016,;Mark Cartwright, “Melqart,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, May 6, 2016,
  15. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 551–586; Zvi C. Koren, “New Chemical Insights into the Ancient Molluskan Purple Dyeing Process,” in Archaeological Chemistry VIII, ed. R. Armitage et al. (Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 2013), chap. 3, 43–67.
  16. Inge Boesken Kanold, “Dyeing Wool and Sea Silk with Purple Pigment from Hexaplex trunculus,” in Treasures from the Sea: Purple Dye and Sea Silk, ed. Enegren Hedvig Landenius and Meo Francesco (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2017), 67–72; Cardon, Natural Dyes, 559–562; Koren, “New Chemical Insights.”
  17. Brendan Burke, From Minos to Midas: Ancient Cloth Production in the Aegean and in Anatolia (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2010), Kindle locations 863–867. In a December 2, 2019, email to the author, Burke elaborates: “The idea of the cannibalism comes up because, IF they are kept in a fish tank, but temporarily denied access to food sources, they might start to eat each other. (I’ve always thought anyone who was tending to them would likely know that they need to feed these things—but perhaps not.) This has been the explanation for why some excavated deposits of snail shells connected to purple dyeing show the bored holes—but only some among large deposits of snails. So yes, the bore holes are a problem and I suspect the larger scale/professionalized production centers would learn that and they would not show up archaeologically quite as frequently as in the smaller scale workshops. The bored holes further suggest that whoever was the snail-keeper was not doing a good job feeding them.”
  18. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 559–562; Koren, “New Chemical Insights”; Zvi C. Koren, “Chromatographic Investigations of Purple Archaeological Bio-Material Pigments Used as Biblical Dyes,” MRS Proceedings 1374 (January 2012): 29–47,
  19. I am using the term Technicolor colloquially. The movie was actually filmed using a different color technology.
  20. Meyer Reinhold, History of Purple as a Status Symbol in Antiquity (Brussels: Revue d’Études Latines, 1970), 17; Pliny, Natural History, Vol. III, Book IX, sec. 50, trans. Harris Rackham, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1947), 247–259,; Cassiodorus, “King Theodoric to Theon, Vir Sublimis,” The Letters of Cassiodorus, Book I, trans. Thomas Hodgkin (London: Henry Frowde, 1886), 143–144,; Martial, “On the Stolen Cloak of Crispinus,” in Epigrams, Book 8, Bohn’s Classical Library, 1897, adapted by Roger Pearse, 2008,; Martial, “To Bassa,” in Epigrams, Book 4,; and Martial, “On Philaenis,” in Epigrams, Book 9, Contrary to popular belief, Tyrian purple was not restricted to royalty in ancient times, only during the later Byzantine Empire.
  21. Strabo, Geography, Vol. VII, Book XVI, sec. 23, trans Horace Leonard Jones, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), 269,
  22. The pH scale is logarithmic, so a solution with a pH of 8 is ten times as alkaline as one with a pH of 7.
  23. Deborah Ruscillo, “Reconstructing Murex Royal Purple and Biblical Blue in the Aegean,” in Archaeomalacology: Molluscs in Former Environments of Human Behaviour, ed. Daniella E. Bar-Yosef Mayer (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2005), 99–106,; Deborah Ruscillo Cosmopoulos, interview with the author, January 12, 2019.
  24. Gioanventura Rosetti, The Plictho: Instructions in the Art of the Dyers which Teaches the Dyeing of Woolen Cloths, Linens, Cottons, and Silk by the Great Art as Well as by the Common, trans. Sidney M. Edelstein and Hector C. Borghetty (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969), 89, 91, 109–110. The translators argue that the book’s strange title is probably related to the modern Italian word plico, meaning “envelope” or “package,” and suggests a collection of instructions or important papers.
  25. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 107–108; Zvi C. Koren (Kornblum), “Analysis of the Masada Textile Dyes,” in Masada IV. The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–1965. Final Reports, ed. Joseph Aviram, Gideon Foerster, and Ehud Netzer (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1994), 257–264.
  26. Drea Leed, “Bran Water,” July 2, 2003, book/branwater.html and “How Did They Dye Red in the Renaissance,” www.elizabethan
  27. Koren, “Modern Chemistry of the Ancient Chemical Processing,” 200–204.
  28. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 39.
  29. Cardon, Natural Dyes, 20–24; Charles Singer, The Earliest Chemical Industry: An Essay in the Historical Relations of Economics and Technology Illustrated from the Alum Trade (London: Folio Society, 1948), 114, 203–206. The quote is from Vannoccio Biringuccio in his landmark 1540 book on metalworking, De la Pirotechnia.
  30. Rosetti, The Plictho, 115.
  31. Mari-Tere Álvarez, “New World Palo de Tintes and the Renaissance Realm of Painted Cloths, Pageantry and Parade” (paper presented at From Earthly Pleasures to Princely Glories in the Medieval and Renaissance Worlds conference, UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, May 17, 2013); Elena Phipps, “Global Colors: Dyes and the Dye Trade,” in Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800, ed. Amelia Peck (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 128–130.
  32. Sidney M. Edelstein and Hector C. Borghetty, “Introduction,” in Gioanventura Rosetti, The Plictho, xviii. Edelstein was a prominent industrial chemist and entrepreneur who pursued dye history as an avocation, collected many important historical works on dyeing, and gave philanthropic support to the study of chemical history and historical dyes. Anthony S. Travis, “Sidney Milton Edelstein, 1912–1994,” Edelstein Center for the Analysis of Ancient Artifacts,; Drea Leed, interview with the author, January 25, 2019.
  33. By the 1570s, cochineal had largely replaced kermes, but when The Plictho was published both reds were still in use.
  34. Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 76.
  35. “The Evils of Cochineal, Tlaxcala, Mexico (1553),” in Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, ed. Kenneth Mills, William B. Taylor, and Sandra Lauderdale Graham (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 113–116.
  36. Raymond L. Lee, “Cochineal Production and Trade in New Spain to 1600,” The Americas 4, no. 4 (April 1948): 449–473; Raymond L. Lee, “American Cochineal in European Commerce, 1526–1625,” Journal of Modern History 23, no. 3 (September 1951): 205– 224; John H. Munro, “The Medieval Scarlet and the Economics of Sartorial Splendour,” in Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe, ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983), 63–64.
  37. Edward McLean Test, Sacred Seeds: New World Plants in Early Modern Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019), 48; Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, National Portrait Gallery,
  38. Lynda Shaffer, “Southernization,” Journal of World History 5 (Spring 1994): 1–21,
  39. .pdf; Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello, “East & West: Textiles and Fashion in Early Modern Europe,” Journal of Social History 41, no. 4 (Summer 2008): 887–916,; John Ovington, A Voyage to Suratt: In the Year 1689 (London: Tonson, 1696), 282. Eventually, Indian cloth became such a threat to domestic textile industries that most European governments, with the notable exception of the Netherlands, restricted or banned imports. See chapter 6.
  40. John J. Beer, “Eighteenth-Century Theories on the Process of Dyeing,” Isis 51, no. 1 (March 1960): 21–30.
  41. Jeanne-Marie Roland de La Platière, Lettres de madame Roland, 1780–1793, ed. Claude Perroud (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1900), 375,, translation by the author.
  42. Société d’histoire naturelle et d’ethnographie de Colmar, Bulletin de la Société d’ histoire naturelle de Colmar: Nouvelle Série 1, 1889–1890 (Colmar: Imprimerie Decker, 1891), 282–286,, translation by the author; Hanna Elisabeth Helvig Martinsen, Fashionable Chemistry: The History of Printing Cotton in France in the Second Half of the Eighteenth and First Decades of the Nineteenth Century (PhD thesis, University of Toronto, 2015), 91–97,
  43. American Chemical Society, “The Chemical Revolution of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier,” June 8, 1999,
  44. Martinsen, Fashionable Chemistry, 64.
  45. Charles Coulston Gillispie, Science and Polity in France at the End of the Old Regime (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 409–413.
  46. Claude-Louis Berthollet and Amedée B. Berthollet, Elements of the Art of Dyeing and Bleaching, trans. Andrew Are (London: Thomas Tegg, 1841), 284.
  47. Demorest’s Family Magazine, November 1890, 47, 49, April 1891, 381, 383, and January 1891, 185,; Diane Fagan Affleck and Karen Herbaugh, “Bright Blacks, Neon Accents: Fabrics of the 1890s,” Costume Colloquium, November 2014.
  48. John W. Servos, “The Industrialization of Chemistry,” Science 264, no. 5161 (May 13, 1994): 993–994.
  49. Catherine M. Jackson, “Synthetical Experiments and Alkaloid Analogues: Liebig, Hofmann, and the Origins of Organic Synthesis,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 44, no. 4 (September 2014): 319–363; Augustus William Hofmann, “A Chemical Investigation of the Organic Bases contained in Coal-Gas,” London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, February 1884, 115–127; W. H. Perkin, “The Origin of the Coal-Tar Colour Industry, and the Contributions of Hofmann and His Pupils,” Journal of the Chemical Society, 1896, 596–637.
  50. Sir F. A. Abel, “The History of the Royal College of Chemistry and Reminiscences of Hofmann’s Professorship,” Journal of the Chemical Society, 1896, 580–596.
  51. Anthony S. Travis, “Science’s Powerful Companion: A. W. Hofmann’s Investigation of Aniline Red and Its Derivatives,” British Journal for the History of Science 25, no. 1 (March 1992): 27–44; Edward J. Hallock, “Sketch of August Wilhelm Hofmann,” Popular Science Monthly, April 1884, 831–835; Lord Playfair, “Personal Reminiscences of Hofmann and of the Conditions which Led to the Establishment of the Royal College of Chemistry and His Appointment as Its Professor,” Journal of the Chemical Society, 1896, 575–579; Anthony S. Travis, The Rainbow Makers: The Origins of the Synthetic Dyestuffs Industry in Western Europe (Bethlehem, NY: Lehigh University Press, 1993), 31–81, 220–227.
  52. Simon Garfield, Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World (London: Faber & Faber, 2000), 69.
  53. Travis, The Rainbow Makers, 31–81, 220–227; Perkin, “The Origin of the Coal-Tar Colour Industry.”
  54. Robert Chenciner, Madder Red: A History of Luxury and Trade (London: Routledge Curzon, 2000), Kindle locations 5323–5325; J. E. O’Conor, Review of the Trade of India, 1900–1901 (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1901), 28–29; Asiaticus, “The Rise and Fall of the Indigo Industry in India,” Economic Journal, June 1912, 237–247.
  55. Somaiya Kala Vidya is primarily a school training accomplished artisans in better design and marketing practices, but it also runs workshops for interested amateurs, such as the one I attended February 27–March 10, 2019,
  56. There are technically four separate companies: Swisstex California, the original dye house; Swisstex Direct, a fabric company that buys yarns and contracts out knitting; Swisstex El Salvador, a dye house in that country; and Unique, a fabric manufacturer in El Salvador. Dyeing is more important in Los Angeles, while fabric predominates in El Salvador, close to where garments are assembled. All are owned equally by the same four partners. Dartley is the president of Swisstex Direct.
  57. Badri Chatterjee, “Why Are Dogs Turning Blue in This Mumbai Suburb? Kasadi River May Hold Answers,” Hindustan Times, August 11, 2017, UpioHGWUY1zv98HuN.html; Badri Chatterjee, “Mumbai’s Blue Dogs: Pollution Board Shuts Down Dye Industry After HT Report,” Hindustan Times, August 20, 2017,
  58. Keith Dartley, interviews with the author, September 16, 2019, and September 26, 2019, and email to the author, September 27, 2019; Swisstex California, “Environment,” is certified by Bluesign, an environmental standard-setting and monitoring company based in Switzerland:

Chapter Five: Traders

  1. Cécile Michel, Correspondance des marchands de Kaniš au début du IIe millénaire avant J.-C. (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2001), 427–431 (translation from French by the author); Cécile Michel, “The Old Assyrian Trade in the Light of Recent Kültepe Archives,” Journal of the Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies, 2008, 71–82,; Cécile Michel, “Assyrian Women’s Contribution to International Trade with Anatolia,” Carnet de REFEMA, November 12, 2013, https://; Cécile Michel, “Economic and Social Aspects of the Old Assyrian Loan Contract,” in L’economia dell’antica Mesopotamia (III-I millennio a.C.) Per un dialogo interdisciplinare, ed. Franco D’Agostino (Rome: Edizioni Nuova Cultura, 2013), 41–56,; Mogens Trolle Larsen, Ancient Kanesh: A Merchant Colony in Bronze Age Anatolia (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2015), 1–3, 112, 152–158, 174, 196–201; Klaas R. Veenhof, “‘Modern’ Features in Old Assyrian Trade,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 40, no. 4 (January 1997): 336–366.
  2. On social technology, see Richard R. Nelson, “Physical and Social Technologies, and Their Evolution” (LEM Working Paper Series, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Laboratory of Economics and Management [LEM], Pisa, Italy, June 2003),
  3. Larsen, Ancient Kanesh, 54–57.
  4. Larsen, Ancient Kanesh, 181–182.
  5. Jessica L. Goldberg, Trade and Institutions in the Medieval Mediterranean: The Geniza Merchants and Their Business World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 65.
  6. The Sogdians, a Central Asian people whose major cities were Samarkand and Bukhara in what is now Uzbekistan, were important traders between China and Iran.
  7. Valerie Hansen and Xinjiang Rong, “How the Residents of Turfan Used Textiles as Money, 273–796 CE,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 23, no. 2 (April 2013): 281–305, JIANG%20RONG.pdf.
  8. Chang Xu and Helen Wang (trans.), “Managing a Multicurrency System in Tang China: The View from the Centre,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 23, no. 2 (April 2013): 242.
  9. Such a story was called a þáttr, the Old Norse word for “strand,” as in a piece of yarn.
  10. William Ian Miller, Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 7, 22–25.
  11. As a unit of account, the law specified that a standard piece of vaðmál was equivalent to an ounce of silver.
  12. Michèle Hayeur Smith, “Vaðmál and Cloth Currency in Viking and Medieval Iceland,” in Silver, Butter, Cloth: Monetary and Social Economies in the Viking Age, ed. Jane Kershaw and Gareth Williams (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 251–277; Michèle Hayeur Smith, “Thorir’s Bargain: Gender, Vaðmál and the Law,” World Archaeology 45, no. 5 (2013): 730–746,; Michèle Hayeur Smith, “Weaving Wealth: Cloth and Trade in Viking Age and Medieval Iceland,” in Textiles and the Medieval Economy: Production, Trade, and Consumption of Textiles, 8th–16th Centuries, ed. Angela Ling Huang and Carsten Jahnke (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2014), 23 – 40, Although often used as a notional unit of account, sometimes called “ghost money,” actual silver was exchanged much less often than cloth. For a simple overview of the basic characteristics of money, see Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, “Functions of Money,” Economic Lowdown Podcast Series, Episode 9,
  13. Marion Johnson, “Cloth as Money: The Cloth Strip Currencies of Africa,” Textile History 11, no. 1 (1980): 193–202.
  14. Peter Spufford, Power and Profit: The Merchant in Medieval Europe (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002), 134–136, 143–152.
  15. Alessandra Macinghi degli Strozzi, Lettere di una Gentildonna Fiorentina del Secolo XV ai Figliuoli Esuli, ed. Cesare Guasti (Firenze: G. C. Sansone, 1877), 27–30. (Translation by the author.)
  16. Spufford, Power and Profit, 25–29.
  17. Jong Kuk Nam, “The Scarsella between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in the 1400s,” Mediterranean Review, June 2016, 53–75.
  18. Telesforo Bini, “Lettere mercantili del 1375 di Venezia a Giusfredo Cenami setaiolo,” appendix to Su I lucchesi a Venezia: Memorie dei Secoli XII e XIV, Part 2, in Atti dell’Accademia Lucchese di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti (Lucca, Italy: Tipografia di Giuseppe Giusti, 1857), 150–155,
  19. Spufford, Power and Profit, 28–29.
  20. Warren Van Egmond, The Commercial Revolution and the Beginnings of Western Mathematics in Renaissance Florence, 1300–1500 (unpublished dissertation, History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, 1976), 74–75, 106. Much of the following draws from Van Egmond’s research. I give page numbers only for quotations and a few specific facts.
  21. Van Egmond, The Commercial Revolution, 14, 172, 186–187, 196–197, 251.
  22. L. E. Sigler, Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci: A Translation into Modern English of Leonardo Pisano’s Book of Calculation (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2002), 4, 15–16.
  23. Paul F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300–1600 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 77, 306–329; Margaret Spufford, “Literacy, Trade, and Religion in the Commercial Centers of Europe,” in A Miracle Mirrored: The Dutch Republic in European Perspective, ed. Karel A. Davids and Jan Lucassen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 229–283. Paul F. Grendler, “What Piero Learned in School: Fifteenth-Century Vernacular Education,” Studies in the History of Art (Symposium Papers XXVIII: Piero della Francesca and His Legacy, 1995), 160–174; Frank J. Swetz, Capitalism and Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century, Including the Full Text of the Treviso Arithmetic of 1478, trans. David Eugene Smith (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987).
  24. Edwin S. Hunt and James Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 1200– 1550 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 57–63.
  25. Van Egmond, The Commercial Revolution, 17–18, 173.
  26. Today the word factor has a technical meaning in the apparel business, referring to an entity that provides credit based on a manufacturer’s current invoices. For most of textile history, however, it simply meant an agent or middleman.
  27. James Stevens Rogers, The Early History of the Law of Bills and Notes: A Study of the Origins of Anglo-American Commercial Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 104–106.
  28. Hunt and Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 64.
  29. Francesca Trivellato, The Promise and Peril of Credit: What a Forgotten Legend About Jews and Finance Tells Us About the Making of European Commercial Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 2. Despite the instruments’ Italian origins, the legend arose that Jews had invented bills of exchange as a way of spiriting their wealth out of Spain when they were expelled in 1492. Trivellato’s book explores the origin and persistence of that legend.
  30. Spufford, Power and Profit, 37. As they evolved and eventually became negotiable, bills of exchange came increasingly close to what economists would count as part of the money supply.
  31. Meir Kohn, “Bills of Exchange and the Money Market to 1600” (Department of Economics Working Paper No. 99-04, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, February 1999), 21,; Peter Spufford, Handbook of Medieval Exchange (London: Royal Historical Society, 1986), xxxvii.
  32. Spufford, Handbook of Medieval Exchange, 316, 321.
  33. Kohn, “Bills of Exchange and the Money Market,” 3, 7–9; Trivellato, The Promise and Peril of Credit, 29–30. See also Raymond de Roover, “What Is Dry Exchange: A Contribution to the Study of English Mercantilism,” in Business, Banking, and Economic Thought in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Selected Studies of Raymond de Roover, ed. Julius Kirshner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 183–199.
  34. Iris Origo, The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval City (New York: Penguin, 1963), 146–149.
  35. Hunt and Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe, 222–225; K. S. Mathew, Indo-Portuguese Trade and the Fuggers of Germany: Sixteenth Century (New Delhi: Manohar, 1997), 101–147.
  36. Kohn, “Bills of Exchange and the Money Market,” 28.
  37. Alfred Wadsworth and Julia de Lacy Mann, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire 1600–1780 (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1931), 91–95.
  38. Wadsworth and Mann, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 91–95; T. S. Ashton, “The Bill of Exchange and Private Banks in Lancashire, 1790–1830,” Economic History Review a15, nos. 1–2 (1945): 27.
  39. Trivellato, The Promise and Peril of Credit, 13–14.
  40. John Graham, “History of Printworks in the Manchester District from 1760 to 1846,” quoted in J. K. Horsefield, “Gibson and Johnson: A Forgotten Cause Célèbre,” Economica, August 1943, 233–237.
  41. Trivellato, The Promise and Peril of Credit, 32–34; Kohn, “Bills of Exchange and the Money Market,” 24–28; Lewis Loyd testimony, May 4, 1826, in House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee on Promissory Notes in Scotland and Ireland (London: Great Britain Parliament, May 26, 1826), 186.
  42. Alexander Blair testimony, March 21, 1826, in House of Commons, Report from the Select Committee on Promissory Notes in Scotland and Ireland (London: Great Britain Parliament, May 26, 1826), 41; Lloyds Banking Group, “British Linen Bank (1746–1999),”
  43. Carl J. Griffin, Protest, Politics and Work in Rural England, 1700–1850 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 24; Adrian Randall, Riotous Assemblies: Popular Protest in Hanoverian England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 141–143; David Rollison, The Local Origins of Modern Society: Gloucestershire 1500–1800 (London: Routledge, 2005), 226–227.
  44. The term woolen refers to a heavier wool cloth that was fulled, a process using moisture and friction to create a felted surface. Once fulled, woolens were sheared to create a smooth surface. Woolens used soft yarn spun from carded, short-stapled wool. Worsted refers to lighter wool cloth, usually unfulled, woven with tightly spun thread; before spinning, the wool was combed rather than carded. Carding fluffs up fibers, whereas combing aligns them in the same direction.
  45. “An Essay on Riots; Their Causes and Cure,” Gentleman’s Magazine, January 1739, 7–10. See also, “A Letter on the Woollen Manufacturer,” Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1739, 84–86; A Manufacturer in Wiltshire, “Remarks on the Essay on Riots,” Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1739, 123–126; Trowbridge, “Conclusion,” Gentleman’s Magazine, 126; “Case between the Clothiers and Weavers,” Gentleman’s Magazine, April 1739, 205–206; “The Late Improvements of Our Trade, Navigation, and Manufactures,” Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1739, 478–480.
  46. Trowbridge, untitled essay, Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1739, 89–90. Trowbridge, “Conclusion,” Gentleman’s Magazine, 126.
  47. Ray Bert Westerfield, The Middleman in English Business (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1914), 296, Although it did not explicitly restrict their numbers, the law recognizing the factor’s role and establishing a register might have been used to do so, which would have given incumbents greater economic power.
  48. Luca Molà, The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), 365n11.
  49. Conrad Gill, “Blackwell Hall Factors, 1795–1799,” Economic History Review, August 1954, 268–281; Westerfield, The Middleman in English Business, 273–304.
  50. Trowbridge, “Conclusion,” Gentleman’s Magazine, 126.
  51. All quotations are transcribed from The Lehman Trilogy as performed at Park Avenue Armory, New York, April 4, 2019.
  52. Harold D. Woodman, “The Decline of Cotton Factorage After the Civil War,” American Historical Review 71, no. 4 (July 1966): 1219–1236; Harold D. Woodman, King Cotton and His Retainers: Financing and Marketing the Cotton Crop of the South, 1800–1925 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1968). Woodman dates cotton factors in the South back to at least 1800.
  53. Italian Playwrights Project, “Stefano Massini’s SOMETHING ABOUT THE LEHMANS,” YouTube video, 1:34:04, December 5, 2016,
  54. Ben Brantley, “‘The Lehman Trilogy’ Is a Transfixing Epic of Riches and Ruin,” New York Times, July 13, 2018, C5,; Richard Cohen, “The Hole at the Heart of ‘The Lehman Trilogy,’” Washington Post, April 8, 2019,; Jonathan Mandell, “The Lehman Trilogy Review: 164 Years of One Capitalist Family Minus the Dark Parts,” New York Theater, April 7, 2019,; Nicole Gelinas, “The Lehman Elegy,”City Journal, April 12, 2019,

Chapter Six: Consumers

  1. Angela Yu-Yun Sheng, “Textile Use, Technology, and Change in Rural Textile Production in Song, China (960–1279)” (unpublished dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 53, 68–113.
  2. Roslyn Lee Hammers, Pictures of Tilling and Weaving: Art, Labor, and Technology in Song and Yuan China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011), 1–7, 87–98, 210, 211. Translations are by Hammers and published with her kind permission.
  3. The Song dynasty lasted from 960 to 1279 CE. It is divided into the Northern Song, which ended in 1127 when the Jurchen Jin dynasty conquered northern China, including the capital in what is now Kaifeng. The Southern Song governed China south of the Yangtze from a new capital in what is now Hangzhou. The movement of officials and much of the population to the south permanently altered the economic geography of China.
  4. William Guanglin Liu, The Chinese Market Economy 1000–1500 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015), 273–275; Richard von Glahn, The Economic History of China: From Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 462.
  5. Liu, The Chinese Market Economy, 273–278; Sheng, “Textile Use, Technology, and Change,” 174.
  6. Thomas T. Allsen, Commodity and Exchange in the Mongol Empire: A Cultural History of Islamic Textiles (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 28; Sheila S. Blair, “East Meets West Under the Mongols,” Silk Road 3, no. 2 (December 2005): 27–33,
  7. The Tartars were one of Genghis Khan’s first conquests and were absorbed into the new Mongol identity he referred to as “the People of the Felt Walls.” Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Crown, 2004), 53–54.
  8. Joyce Denney, “Textiles in the Mongol and Yuan Periods,” and James C. Y. Watt, “Introduction,” in James C. Y. Watt, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010), 243–267, 7–10.
  9. Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the Islamic World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 225; Allsen, Commodity and Exchange in the Mongol Empire, 38–45, 101; Denney, “Textiles in the Mongol and Yuan Periods.”
  10. Helen Persson, “Chinese Silks in Mamluk Egypt,” in Global Textile Encounters, ed. Marie-Louise Nosch, Zhao Feng, and Lotika Varadarajan (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2014), 118.
  11. James C. Y. Watt and Anne E. Wardwell, When Silk Was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), 132.
  12. Allsen, Commodity and Exchange in the Mongol Empire, 29. Genghis Khan urged his commanders to train their sons so they would be as knowledgeable in the arts of war as merchants were about their goods.
  13. Yuan Zujie, “Dressing the State, Dressing the Society: Ritual, Morality, and Conspicuous Consumption in Ming Dynasty China” (unpublished dissertation, University of Minnesota, 2002), 51.
  14. Craig Clunas, Superfluous Things: Material Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 150; Zujie, “Dressing the State, Dressing the Society,” 93.
  15. The primary revision occurred in 1528, establishing rules for the off-duty attire of officials.
  16. BuYun Chen, “Wearing the Hat of Loyalty: Imperial Power and Dress Reform in Ming Dynasty China,” in The Right to Dress: Sumptuary Laws in a Global Perspective, c. 1200–1800, ed. Giorgio Riello and Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 418.
  17. Zujie, “Dressing the State, Dressing the Society,” 94–96, 189–191.
  18. Ulinka Rublack, “The Right to Dress: Sartorial Politics in Germany, c. 1300–1750,” in The Right to Dress, 45; Chen, “Wearing the Hat of Loyalty,” 430–431.
  19. Liza Crihfield Darby, Kimono: Fashioning Culture (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001), 52–54; Katsuya Hirano, “Regulating Excess: The Cultural Politics of Consumption in Tokugawa Japan,” in The Right to Dress, 435–460; Howard Hibbett, The Floating World in Japanese Fiction (Boston: Tuttle Publishing, [1959] 2001).
  20. Catherine Kovesi, “Defending the Right to Dress: Two Sumptuary Law Protests in Sixteenth-Century Milan,” in The Right to Dress, 186; Luca Molà and Giorgio Riello, “Against the Law: Sumptuary Prosecutions in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Padova,” in The Right to Dress, 216; Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, “Sumptuary Laws in Italy: Financial Resource and Instrument of Rule,” in The Right to Dress, 171, 176; Alan Hunt, Governance of the Consuming Passions: A History of Sumptuary Law (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 73; Ronald E. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence” (unpublished diss., Columbia University, 1985), 62.
  21. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence,” 54, 468–470, 198.
  22. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence,” 52–53, 72, 98, 147, 442–443. The word sciamito may refer specifically to samite, a reversible brocade often including gold or silver threads, but Rainey finds that it was also used in a more general sense.
  23. Carole Collier Frick, Dressing Renaissance Florence: Families, Fortunes, and Fine Clothing (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), Kindle edition.
  24. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence,” 231–234; Franco Sacchetti, Tales from Sacchetti, trans. by Mary G. Steegman (London: J. M. Dent, 1908), 117– 119; Franco Sacchetti, Delle Novelle di Franco Sacchetti (Florence: n.p., 1724), 227. The original phrase is “Ciò che vuole dunna [sic], vuol signò; e ciò vuol signò, Tirli in Birli.”
  25. Muzzarelli, “Sumptuary Laws in Italy,” 175, 185.
  26. Rainey, “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence,” 200–205, 217; William Caferro, “Florentine Wages at the Time of the Black Death” (unpublished ms., Vanderbilt University),
  27. Kovesi, “Defending the Right to Dress,” 199–200.
  28. Felicia Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, and the Making of Economic Liberalism: Asian Textiles in France 1680–1760 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 91. A version of this section originally appeared as Virginia Postrel, “Before Drug Prohibition, There Was the War on Calico,” Reason, July 2018, 14–15,
  29. Michael Kwass, Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), 218–220; Gillian Crosby, First Impressions: The Prohibition on Printed Calicoes in France, 1686–1759 (unpublished dissertation, Nottingham Trent University, 2015), 143–144.
  30. Kwass, Contraband, 56.
  31. For an overview of the historiography on the British Calico Acts, including links to relevant literature, see “The Calico Acts: Was British Cotton Made Possible by Infant Industry Protection from Indian Competition?” Pseudoerasmus, January 5, 2017, https://
  32. Giorgio Riello, Cotton: The Fabric That Made the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 100; Kwass, Contraband, 33.
  33. Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, 7; Kwass, Contraband, 37–39.
  34. Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, 41.
  35. Gottmann, Global Trade, Smuggling, 153.
  36. Kwass, Contraband, 294.
  37. Julie Gibbons, “The History of Surface Design: Toile de Jouy,” Pattern Observer,
  38. George Metcalf, “A Microcosm of Why Africans Sold Slaves: Akan Consumption Patterns in the 1770s,” Journal of African History 28, no. 3 (November 1987): 377–394. The popularity of textiles is confirmed in data compiled in Stanley B. Alpern, “What Africans Got for Their Slaves: A Master List of European Trade Goods,” History in Africa 22 (January 1995): 5–43.
  39. In this period, most West African captives were bound for the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
  40. Chambon, Le commerce de l’Amérique par Marseille, quoted and translated in Michael Kwass, Contraband, 20. Original available at Venice Lamb, West African Weaving (London: Duckworth, 1975), 104.
  41. Colleen E. Kriger, “‘Guinea Cloth’: Production and Consumption of Cotton Textiles in West Africa before and during the Atlantic Slave Trade,” in The Spinning World: A Global History of Cotton Textiles, 1200–1850, ed. Giorgio Riello and Prasannan Parthasarathi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 105–126; Colleen E. Kriger, Cloth in West African History (Lanham, MD: Altamira Press, 2006), 35–36.
  42. Suzanne Gott and Kristyne S. Loughran, “Introducing African-Print Fashion,” in African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style, ed. Suzanne Gott, Kristyne S. Loughran, Betsy D. Smith, and Leslie W. Rabine (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum UCLA, 2017), 22–49; Helen Elanda, “Dutch Wax Classics: The Designs Introduced by Ebenezer Brown Fleming circa 1890–1912 and Their Legacy,” in African-Print Fashion Now!, 52–61; Alisa LaGamma, “The Poetics of Cloth,” in The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End, ed. Alisa LaGamma and Christine Giuntini (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 9–23,
  43. Kathleen Bickford Berzock, “African Prints/African Ownership: On Naming, Value, and Classics,” in African-Print Fashion Now!, 71–79. (Berzock is the art historian quoted.) Susan Domowitz, “Wearing Proverbs: Anyi Names for Printed Factory Cloth,” African Arts, July 1992, 82–87, 104; Paulette Young, “Ghanaian Woman and Dutch Wax Prints: The Counter-appropriation of the Foreign and the Local Creating a New Visual Voice of Creative Expression,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 51, no. 3 (January 10, 2016), (Young is the curator quoted.) Michelle Gilbert, “Names, Cloth and Identity: A Case from West Africa,” in Media and Identity in Africa, ed. John Middleton and Kimani Njogu (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 226–244.
  44. Tunde M. Akinwumi, “The ‘African Print’ Hoax: Machine Produced Textiles Jeopardize African Print Authenticity,” Journal of Pan African Studies 2, no. 5 (July 2008): 179–192; Victoria L. Rovine, “Cloth, Dress, and Drama,” in African-Print Fashion Now!, 274–277.
  45. Although described as kente by Colleen Kriger, this cloth may be better seen as a precursor to it. Malika Kraamer, “Ghanaian Interweaving in the Nineteenth Century: A New Perspective on Ewe and Asante Textile History,” African Arts, Winter 2006, 36–53, 93–95.
  46. Depending on how the weft is inserted, the patterns may not appear as vertical and horizontal. That is simply the most common arrangement. “Just to confuse matters, it is, of course, possible to weave warp-wise stripes in weft-faced areas by using alternating weft elements in two colours. Those in the one colour will then all lie over one warp unit and under the next, and vice versa for weft elements in the other colour,” observe textile scholars John Picton and John Mack, African Textiles (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 117.
  47. Malika Kraamer, “Challenged Pasts and the Museum: The Case of Ghanaian Kente,” in The Thing about Museums: Objects and Experience, Representation and Contestation, ed. Sandra Dudley, Amy Jane Barnes, Jennifer Binnie, Julia Petrov, Jennifer Walklate (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011), 282–296.
  48. Lamb, West African Weaving, 141.
  49. Lamb, West African Weaving, 22; Doran H. Ross, “Introduction: Fine Weaves and Tangled Webs” and “Kente and Its Image Outside Ghana,” in Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity, ed. Doran H. Ross (Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1998), 21, 160–176; James Padilioni Jr., “The History and Significance of Kente Cloth in the Black Diaspora,” Black Perspectives, May 22, 2017,; Betsy D. Quick, “Pride and Dignity: African American Perspective on Kente,” in Wrapped in Pride, 202–268. Kente can be seen as a manifestation of glamour. See Virginia Postrel, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013).
  50. Anita M. Samuels, “African Textiles: Making the Transition from Cultural Statement to Macy’s,” New York Times, July 26, 1992, sec. 3, 10, Perhaps the importer or the reporter confused kente with wax prints, which are printed on both sides of the fabric.
  51. Ross, Wrapped in Pride, 273–289.
  52. Kwesi Yankah, “Around the World in Kente Cloth,” Uhuru, May 1990, 15–17, quoted in Ross, Wrapped in Pride, 276; John Picton, “Tradition, Technology, and Lurex: Some Comments on Textile History and Design in West Africa,” in History, Design, and Craft in West African Strip-Woven Cloth: Papers Presented at a Symposium Organized by the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, February 18–19, 1988 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1992), 46. For kente yoga pants, see For a fuller discussion of authenticity, see Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Culture, Commerce, and Consciousness (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), 95–117.
  53. For an American textile example, see Virginia Postrel, “Making History Modern,” Reason, December 2017, 10–11, For a Mexican example, see Virginia Postrel, “How Ponchos Got More Authentic After Commerce Came to Chiapas,” Reason, April 2018, 10–11,
  54. Raymond Senuk, interview with the author, August 31, 2018, and email August 2, 2019; Lisa Fitzpatrick, interview with the author, August 24, 2018; Barbara Knoke de Arathoon and Rosario Miralbés de Polanco, Huipiles Mayas de Guatemala/Maya Huipiles of Guatemala (Guatemala City: Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigene, 2011); Raymond E. Senuk, Maya Traje: A Tradition in Transition (Princeton, NJ: Friends of the Ixchel Museum, 2019); Rosario Miralbés de Polanco, The Magic and Mystery of Jaspe: Knots Revealing Designs (Guatemala City: Museo Ixchel del Traje Indigena, 2005). On Instagram, see
  55. Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More (New York: Hachette Books, 2008), 52.
  56. Gart Davis, interview with the author, May 11, 2016, and email to the author, August 2, 2019; Alex Craig email to the author, September 23, 2019; Jonna Hayden, Facebook messages with the author, May 10, 2016, and August 3, 2019.

Chapter Seven: Innovators

  1. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), 114. Some of the following material appeared in Virginia Postrel, “The iPhone of 1939 Helped Liberate Europe. And Women,” Bloomberg Opinion, October 25, 2019,
  2. Yasu Furukawa, Inventing Polymer Science: Staudinger, Carothers, and the Emergence of Macromolecular Chemistry (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 103–111; Joel Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 28–77.
  3. Herman F. Mark, “The Early Days of Polymer Science,” in Contemporary Topics in Polymer Science, Vol. 5, ed. E.J. Vandenberg, Proceedings of the Eleventh Biennial Polymer Symposium of the Division of Polymer Chemistry on High Performance Polymers, November 20–24, 1982 (New York: Plenum Press, 1984), 10–11.
  4. McGrayne, Prometheans in the Lab, 120–128; Matthew E. Hermes, Enough for One Lifetime: Wallace Carothers, Inventor of Nylon (Washington, DC: American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1996), 115.
  5. “Chemists Produce Synthetic ‘Silk,’” New York Times, September 2, 1931, 23.
  6. Hermes, Enough for One Lifetime, 183.
  7. McGrayne, Prometheans in the Lab, 139–142; Hermes, Enough for One Lifetime, 185–189.
  8. “The New Dr. West’s Miracle Tuft” ad, Saturday Evening Post, October 29, 1938, 44–45,; “DuPont Discloses New Yarn Details,” New York Times, October 28, 1938, 38; “Du Pont Calls Fair American Symbol,” New York Times, April 25, 1939, 2; “First Offering of Nylon Hosiery Sold Out,” New York Times, October 25, 1939, 38; “Stine Says Nylon Claims Tend to Overoptimism,” New York Times, January 13, 1940, 18.
  9. Kimbra Cutlip, “How 75 Years Ago Nylon Stockings Changed the World,” Smithsonian, May 11, 2015,
  10. David Brunnschweiler, “Rex Whinfield and James Dickson at the Broad Oak Print Works,” in Polyester: 50 Years of Achievement, ed. David Brunnschweiler and John Hearle (Manchester, UK: Textile Institute, 1993), 34–37; J. R. Whinfield, “The Development of Terylene,” Textile Research Journal, May 1953, 289–293,; J. R. Whinfield, “Textiles and the Inventive Spirit” (Emsley Lecture), in Journal of the Textile Institute Proceedings, October 1955, 5–11; IHS Markit, “Polyester Fibers,” Chemical Economics Handbook, June 2018,
  11. Hermes, Enough for One Lifetime, 291.
  12. “Vogue Presents Fashions of the Future,” Vogue, February 1, 1939, 71–81, 137–146; “Clothing of the Future—Clothing in the Year 2000,” Pathetone Weekly, YouTube video, 1:26,
  13. Regina Lee Blaszczyk, “Styling Synthetics: DuPont’s Marketing of Fabrics and Fashions in Postwar America,” Business History Review, Autumn 2006, 485–528; Ronald Alsop, “Du Pont Acts to Iron Out the Wrinkles in Polyester’s Image,” Wall Street Journal, March 2, 1982, 1.
  14. Jean E. Palmieri, “Under Armour Scores $1 Billion in Sales through Laser Focus on Athletes,” WWD, December 1, 2011,; Jean E. Palmieri, “Innovating the Under Armour Way,” WWD, August 10, 2016, 11–12; Kelefa Sanneh, “Skin in the Game,” New Yorker, March 24, 2014,
  15. Phil Brown, interview with the author, March 4, 2015; Virginia Postrel, “How the Easter Bunny Got So Soft,” Bloomberg Opinion, April 2, 2015,
  16. Brian K. McFarlin, Andrea L. Henning, and Adam S. Venable, “Clothing Woven with Titanium Dioxide-Infused Yarn: Potential to Increase Exercise Capacity in a Hot, Humid Environment?” Journal of the Textile Institute 108 (July 2017): 1259–1263,
  17. Elizabeth Miller, “Is DWR Yucking Up the Planet?” SNEWS, May 12, 2017,; John Mowbray, “Gore PFC Challenge Tougher than Expected,” EcoTextile News, February 20, 2019, Whether the compounds actually pose significant risks is controversial. But as a consumer brand, Under Armour doesn’t need to adjudicate those claims any more than it has to decide whether blue or red is a better color. Its job is to satisfy customers.
  18. Kyle Blakely, interview with the author, July 31, 2019.
  19. Christian Holland, “MassDevice Q&A: OmniGuide Chairman Yoel Fink,” MassDevice, June 1, 2010,; Bruce Schechter, “M.I.T. Scientists Turn Simple Idea Into ‘Perfect Mirror,’” New York Times, December 15, 1998, sec. F, 2,
  20. Yoel Fink, interviews with the author, July 28, 2019, and August 16, 2019; Bob D’Amelio and Tosha Hays, interviews with the author, July 29, 2019, and August 28, 2019; Jonathon Keats, “This Materials Scientist Is on a Quest to Create Functional Fibers That Could Change the Future of Fabric,” Discover, April 2018,; David L. Chandler, “AFFOA Launches State-of-the-Art Facility for Prototyping Advanced Fabrics,” MIT News Office, June 19, 2017, Fink and Hays left AFFOA in late 2019, but Fink’s MIT group continues to research functional fibers.
  21. Fink was born in the United States, but his family emigrated when he was two.
  22. Hiroyasu Furukawa, Kyle E. Cordova, Michael O’Keeffe, and Omar M. Yaghi, “The Chemistry and Applications of Metal-Organic Frameworks,” Science 341, no. 6149 (August 30, 2013): 974.
  23. Juan Hinestroza, interviews with the author, August 23, 2019, August 30, 2019, and September 3, 2019, and emails to the author September 2, 2019, September 5, 2019, and September 25, 2019; College of Textiles, NC State University, “Researchers Develop High-Tech, Chemical-Resistant Textile Layers,” Wolftext, Summer 2005, 2,; Ali K. Yetisen, Hang Qu, Amir Manbachi, Haider Butt, Mehmet R. Dokmeci, Juan P. Hinestroza, Maksim Skorobogatiy, Ali Khademhosseini, and SeokHyun Yun, “Nanotechnology in Textiles,” ACS Nano, March 22, 2016, 3042–3068.
  24. In 2016, Allergan sold the technology to Sofregen Medical, another silk-oriented medical spinoff from Tufts. Sarah Faulkner, “Sofregen Buys Allergan’s Seri Surgical Scaffold,” MassDevice, November 14, 2016,
  25. Rachel Brown, “Science in a Clean Skincare Direction,” Beauty Independent, December 6, 2017,
  26. Benedetto Marelli, Mark A. Brenckle, and David L. Kaplan, “Silk Fibroin as Edible Coating for Perishable Food Preservation,” Science Reports 6 (May 6, 2016): art. 25263,
  27. Kim Bhasin, “Chanel Bets on Liquid Silk for Planet-Friendly Luxury,” Bloomberg, June 11, 2019,
  28. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E), “Personal Thermal Management to Reduce Energy Consumption Workshop,”
  29. Centre for Industry Education Collaboration, University of York, “Poly(ethene) (Polyethylene),” Essential Chemical Industry (ECI)—Online,; Svetlana V. Boriskina, “An Ode to Polyethylene,” MRS Energy & Sustainability 6 (September 19, 2019),
  30. Svetlana Boriskina, interview with the author, July 30, 2019, and emails to the author, August 15, 2019, and September 2, 2019.