"Manchester Red Sprigged" Handkerchief


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This striking 18th century block printed handkerchief was inspired by a late 18th century print of two women street vendors “The Negras vendedoras de rua (Black Street Vendors)” by Carlos Julio  in conjuction with Not Your Momma's History.

This print depicts two Afro-Latina women wearing headwraps.  The woman on the left wears a simple red sprig printed headwrap while the woman on the right wears a red or possibly red checked headwrap.  Brazil had one of the largest enslaved populations in the 18th century making this likely a print of two enslaved women.

Manchester, England was the hub of the cotton textile industry by the end of the 18th century. Merchants achieved great profit through cotton, importing it from the West Indies and later the Americas then exporting finished cloth of linen/cotton and later all cotton. Goods were sent to London where simple designs such as the sprigs adopted from India were used to make inexpensive "cottons" for England as well as the overseas market.  The popularity of these textiles soon made them a desirable payment for enslaved persons.  Manchester’s close proximity to the large port of Liverpool provided an opportunity not only for the larger textile merchants to export their cloth, but also to actively participate through ownership of vessels and warehouses in buying and selling enslaved individuals.

The ship The Unity departed Zeeland in 1761 on a transatlantic route.  Among the surviving documents were ship inventories listing a huge quantity and assortment of textiles to be used as payment for enslaved persons upon their arrival in West Africa. Among the 18 tons of 35 different textiles were many printed textiles including ones listed as flowered.

In designing this reproduction, we felt that the textile was as important as the print. We reproduced the textile as it would have been woven in Manchester with a linen warp and cotton weft.  It has the distinct look and feel of extant 18th century Manchester textiles we have studied. It was then block printed with a simple sprig based on an India motif of the first half of the 18th century.

  • Measures approximately 36 inches square. 
  • Hand loomed 50% Linen & 50% Cotton.
  • Hand printed and hand hemmed. 
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