The Midgley family of textile workers

by admin on 11/06/2015

One of the delights of this website is being contacted by those who have some personal link to the stamps, tickets and textile trademark business. The power of the internet, combined with serendipity, never ceases to amaze me.

I bought two stamps a while ago from an ex worker of the River Etherow Bleach works and as a bonus, he gave me a company ashtray depicting the textile mill. I posted it online, along with the stamps.


Lo and behold, I received an email a short while later from Brian Midgley, who proudly stated that he “worked in the engine house and had a bit of a talent for drawing, so the company used my picture for the ashtray.” Adding “I was 20 and they paid me five pounds and gave me two ashtrays for my drawing.” As someone who worked tending mill engines his whole life, he couldn’t believe his ashtray was on the internet.
We emailed and chatted for a while, so when I went back to England last month, I met the now 69 year old engineer and one time artist, and he gave me a set of photos he took of his family. So here is a pictorial history of the Midgley family’s long working association with the River Etherow Bleaching Company. These images are all Brian’s copyright and must not be used without permission.

20150611_165937This is the view of the Mill, on the right hand third of this photo of the Longdendale Valley.

20150611_165856Here is a close up of the mill itself. Note how they removed the top of the tower on the ashtray illustration for some reason unknown to Brian.

20150611_170139This is Brian’s grandfather, George Midgley (first on the left), who was an “ash wheeler” for the hopper fed Lancashire Boilers that they are stood beside.



And this is Brian’s father, George Midgley, who was the factory “Yard Man” (bricklayer and labourer), working on the factory roof.


This is Brian’s mother, Enid Midley (in centre), who worked in the Making Up room and can be seen here tying the ends of each cloth piece together before it was stamped. In the background are the folding or “Plating” machines.


Brian’s father hand tinted this photo of his wife, so there was definitely an artistic streak in this working class family



It wasn’t all work and no play. Here is Enid enjoying her birthday celebration with her workmates, photographed by Brian.


And here is a works outing, including:

John Revel, who had lost his legs in a train accident but worked at the mill; Walter Jackson, Electrician; Ronnie Clayton, Foreman Joiner who ended up Works Engineer; George Wilson, head of Wages Office; Thomas Cooper, Brian’s cousin who was a labourer; George Midley, Yard Man; Fred Goddard, in charge of Water Treatment and John Goddard who was the “Oiler & Greaser”, or Grease Monkey.


Last but not least, Brian wanted me to have this medal. It was given as recognition for long service to workers in the Bleacher’s Association and I will always treasure it.


It is amazing that all this came from posting a photo of an ashtray on the internet. I am very happy to be able to share the artistic photos and the obvious pride Brian has for his family. The factory is still there, though no longer bleaching cotton, and now part of its human story has been brought back to life thanks to Brian.





I am very happy to announce that after a 20 year wait, I have acquired the complete archive of Manchester’s most successful ticket printer, B. Taylor – including largest textile ticket collection in the world.


The plain looking books below are just part of the collection, but contain thousands of tickets for merchants selling fabric across the world from the 1800’s to about 1940.


Just one of the 65 books above contains 2,000 different tickets!



bk12f sample spread of the book contents DSC00012 sample spread of the book contents


DSC00018 original drawings and copyright applications


DSC00033 original painted artwork for the tickets original artwork for the tickets original artwork for the tickets

The collection also includes tens of thousands of tickets from around the world, plus ephemera including adverts for the printer, trademark applications, invoices, photographs and even the original painted artwork and names of the artists who created them. A complete history of ticket creation, printing and trade.

B-Taylor-ADVERT Advertising showcard

Along with the 2,000 stamps, masses of artwork, unique archive material sourced from Manchester warehouses, personal interviews with merchants and textile workers over the last 20 years, this is now the most comprehensive collection in the world.

The point of this website is to show the amazing art and marketing used by Manchester textile merchants, which has been largely ignored or dismissed as “commercial art”.

Please get in touch if you are a publisher, museum, graphic designer, typographer, fashion/textile designer or historian and are interested in any collaborations.

Note that I have put this material on the website from my own personal collection, with many items and much of the information gleaned from personal interaction with those involved in the trade.

I am always happy to help those who are interested in this subject, but please follow in the spirit of this website by not copying any information or images without my permission.



Art Update

by admin on 22/03/2015

A very important part of owning a collection such as this, is that it continues to be used in the way it was intended. Obviously I am not a fabric merchant but, like a classic ferrari that is kept in an air conditioned storage facility, to stop using the stamps would be a shame.
I have therefore had long standing collaborations with those who appreciate and want to incorporate the art in their work. This has ranged from political art at Zuccoti Park, through to celebratory art for Earth Wind & Fire and performance pieces during ArtBasel.
The only rule I have is that there is no charge for the art created.
In that vein, I have for the last few months, had a Sunday Art Open Day where anyone can come and enjoy using the stamps to create whatever they want.

No judgements.

Below are a few examples from all ages of artist…


Chinese ticket book and translations

by admin on 30/01/2015

I thought it about time that I had some of the Chinese tickets translated.

The style and printing of tickets, or “Chops” as they were often referred to, was designed to replicate the silk paintings that were familiar to Chinese buyers.


China was a huge market for the Manchester textile trade and the diversity and care of how the trademarks were chosen was no different than that for the Indian or African market. To a western eyes that do not know the fables or spiritual references such as myself, the images can often look repetitive and indistinct. However, on having just a few tickets translated in the following (flash based) ebook….







(Click this book image or the link below for the ebook)

…it becomes more obvious that symbolism – such as a pearl in an oyster signifying a baby boy for instance, and locally recognizable figures such as warriors from stories, or Thunder Gods from fables again proves that Manchester merchants knew exactly what images would attract buyers to their particular brands.

The ticket book dates from around 1910 but the designs may have been created years earlier. I have no doubt after seeing original artwork for these tickets, that Chinese artists would have been employed as ticket illustrators by the big printers (B Taylor employed 20 full time artists) in Manchester, rather than train Western artists to draw in a Chinese style.

The ideas for the designs would have sometimes been suggested by the Chinese fabric importers and merchants, or by the agents and salesmen of the Manchester merchant firms, to ensure their local relevance.


One of the readers of this website recently contacted me regarding a stamp she owned and needed information on. After looking at images of the stamp and the name of the merchant E. PAVENSTADT & Co that she noticed on the side of the stamp once I asked her to look, I concluded that it was a typical, though impressively large, trademark stamp.



Looking up the E. PAVENSTEDT & Co online, it turns out they were a very interesting old merchant firm, listed as being at 52 Exchange place, Downtown NYC in 1872 but going back at least  a few decades before then.

The earliest record found in the US was in 1837, when a 27 year old German by the name of E Pavenstedt, arrived in NY on board a ship named “Vester”.

The company is mentioned in government papers importing ” A number of cases of colored prints” in 1848. The prints were shipped to New Orleans and a bond was given to the US government that $1,150 would be released once the cloth arrived in New Orleans. Unfortunately the vessel carrying the prints was lost at sea and the House of Representatives had issued an order to cancel the bond. This suggests that the firm were a very powerful and influential company to both absorb the losses and have the Senate settle their grievances.

E. PAVENSTEDT & Co evidently didn’t just import cotton, with a listing in 1864 New York Times marine diary listing “Brig Maracaibo, (Br.,) Scandella, Maracaibo April 21, and the bar 27th, with coffee, hides, etc., to E. Pavenstadt & Co.” and in 1865 describing the arrival in NY of the “Brig Maracaibo, (of Nassau,) Scandella, Maracaibo June 27, and the Bar July, with coffee, fustic, etc., to E. Pavenstadt & Co” and the “Bark Brazileira, (Russ.,) Wessels, Rio Janeiro 48 ds., with coffee to E. Pavenstadt & Co.”

In 1863, during the blockade of imports to the South, E Paventedt had to plea to receive assurances that it could land 178 tons of Hong Kong tea in the United States

So coffee and tea was maybe even a larger part of the company trade than fabric.

A Frederic Charles Jennings emigrated from England “to the United States in 1871 to be tea valuer and general manager of E. Pavenstadt & Co while the owner was away in the East. But Pavenstadt died, and Frederick established his own business as a tea importer in New York”. Pavenstedt are also mentioned in Abram Wakeman’s 1914 history of New York’s coffee and tea trading area around Lower Wall Street, still at 52 Exchange Place.

So was this maybe a coffee sack printing stamp, or was it made and used to stamp fabric for E Pavenstedt in Manchester? It is certainly way oversized for a fabric piece, though sometimes pieces were stamped horizontally rather than vertically. and it did have the tell tale traces of the water soluble indigo stamping paste used in Manchester, which presumably would never be used on a coffee sack as they would be marked with permanent inks. The style and design is of a later simplistic stamp, but the construction using felt is typical of pre 1900 stamps in my collection.


Then came this discovery. Sometimes, by wetting the wood grain, faded embossed lettering starts to stand out more.

There it was “F Brockman, Maker N.Y.C.” punched into the wood with a metal punch exactly as was done by every other stamp maker who wanted to advertise his wares.

The only other curious thing about the stamp is the brass code number on one end. As stamps were stored in making up departments on narrow flat shelves, they often had a number marked on the end so the person that used it could know the design that was on it without having to pull it out. This code seems to bear no relation to the merchant or makers name however. Maybe it was the acronym of the name of the making up or bleaching/printing company where the stamp was used. 2054 seems a high number if that is how many stamps were stored on the shelves.


I am really struggling to find any record of F Brockman online . The only “F Brockman” listed on genealogy sites is an F W Brockman who was also German, born in 1856 and arrived in NY in 1886. Either way, it was definitely made in NYC and it definitely has the typical indigo water soluble ink, so the next task is to date it by finding the stamp maker’s name in a NYC directory. I will update this post when I find it but please let me know if you have any information or theories that may help this mystery.

If nothing else, it is amazing to find a stamp made in the city where my collection now resides and although had a big garment manufacturing base, was not as well known for making up cloth pieces as Lancashire or the Massachusetts region were.


Here is the stamp after I repaired bent strips of copper, cleaned it and added a protective and restorative oil, as stamp makers of the past did



I just acquire this ticket, named “Standing Wall”.

Without the caption, I may as a Westerner looked at the design as just three random Indian people.

But it isn’t. The title describes exactly what is happening and it is an absolutely logical and charming detail of life in rural India. Obviously with no shade and heavy loads to carry upon your head, wouldn’t it be marvelous if there were a small section of wall built that meant instead of putting your load down when having a rest, it could be temporarily held at head height on top of the wall.

The added bonus of the wall would be to provide some much needed shade, in which a cigarette could be enjoyed.

A simple but elegant part of rural Indian life illustrated here as a trade mark to remind cloth buyers how good life can be. Much better than putting a picture of Queen Victoria, Empress of India on the


I recently acquired around 50 original paintings used by Manchester merchants to create tickets for the Chinese and Japanese markets.

Some are painted on art card, some on thin paper and some on silk with dates marked at around 1910. The ones from religious fables have a description on the back explaining what is the meaning of the illustration. The style and quality varies across the collection but they do seem to be drawn by an artist from that region rather than by a Manchester artist imitating Asian techniques. Althought the image quality is kept purposefully low to prevent copying from this site, there is a zoomed in detail shown of one of the pieces of art to show the technique. Maybe original artwork was bought from the Far East and adapted, with borders added by Manchester artists to convert the image to the style of a ticket.

The subject matter ranges from daily life such as cycling around, to religious, to more abstract.

If anyone can provide any translations, or has any knowledge of the subject matter, significance or any other thoughts on the first examples I have found of original artwork, I would love to hear from you.DSC00038 DSC00058 DSC00061 DSC00077



DSC00027 DSC00030 DSC00033 DSC00039 DSC00044 DSC00048 DSC00050 DSC00054 DSC00062 DSC00069 DSC00071 DSC00072 DSC00074


I am well aware that the British Empire was responsible for many atrocities, divisions and oppression. However, it is a commonly held belief that the British imposed religion and cultures upon those people it came across, with little regard for their existing beliefs or traditions.

In terms of India, the ticket below epitomises probably how most people think the empire looked upon the country


But what is clear from my collection is that, in terms of cotton merchants at least, there was a great deal of interest and respect of local customs. This may have been simply because if local Hindu buyers saw images of the deity Shiva  stuck to the cloth they would be more inclined to buy it, rather than one with a depiction of Queen Victoria. However we may discount the motivation, the end result is more important than the reason, because it has left us with the largest collection of “ethnic” imagery ever amassed. It is a shame only a fraction exists but I thought it would be interesting to compare a Western cliche image and its Indian counterpart as a simple visual demonstration of exactly how reverential and interested Manchester textile merchants were in using images which had relevance to local buyers on the other side of the world.

Bear in mind these are just a few examples of a huge forgotten chapter in art history. One merchant could have 10,000 different trademarks, all of which were drawn and printed among the sooty factories of an industrial English city, but were destined for village markets and stores across the world. In fact, the merchants became so astute at manufacturing and marketing their fabric, that 85% of the world’s population wore cloth from Manchester in the 1880’s.

I have similar examples from Africa, South America and China

Respecting and celebrating the culture of your customer was obviously good business and I would argue more ethical than the homogenous globalisation of brands and logo’s we see today from the likes of Starbucks, McDonalds or Nike.









I was recently contacted through this site by a couple who’s grandfather, Thomas Winterbottom, worked at the River Etherow Bleaching Company, Hollingworth, Hyde near Manchester.


Apparently when the bleachworks closed down, employees could pick stamps to keep as a momento, so he chose the following stamps, which have now been passed on and are part of my collection, along with the ashtray.

Thanks so much. They are in good hands






I decided it would be nice to print the stamps again and by adding some of my own, came up with these designs









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American stamp found

by admin on 20/04/2014

After a 10 year search I finally own a trademark stamp made in America. The stamp is the exact standard depth of Manchester stamps and the 8 inch wide design depicts the Mexican national emblem of an eagle stood on a cactus holding a snake. Mexico Coat of Arms stamp

The coat of arms changed over the years and this design, by José Mariano Torreblanca, was used from 1823-64 and then from 1867-93, so the stamp was made during one of these two periods. stamp-3

The stamp was made by J Cosgrove, Providence, R.I. and a Census lists a John Cosgrove working as a stencil cutter (The American term for a stamp maker) in Providence in 1880.

This is where things get interesting. The census lists John Cosgrove as being English, born in 1833 with an English father and an Irish mother.

His wife Sarah is listed as Irish and his 4 children were born in various places:

Matilda COSGROVE, 18, birthplace, Ireland

Albert E. COSGROVE, 17 birthplace, Ireland, Occupation: Stencil Cutter

Alice J. COSGROVE , 12, birthplace, Massachusetts

John COSGROVE, 8 birthplace, Rhode Island John Cosgrove

Searching for a John Cosgrove who was born in England in 1833…….

A John Cosgrove, born in Lancashire in 1833, was listed as living in Manchester’s Ancoats textile district  in 1841  and 1861 censuses.
In 1880 the USA census states that his son and daughter was Irish and the youngest was 17, which means they must have moved to Ireland at some point.
They must have left for America before 1868 because his daughter Alice was born in Massachusetts.
There is a Thomas John Cosgrove who married a Sarah Mcmullon in 1859 (When John was 26) in Carnmoney, 7 miles from Belfast – the only ‘Sarah’ to marry a Cosgrove in that 20 year period. He is half Irish so he could have gone to Ireland to get married and  moved there just after the 1861 Manchester census, having babies Matilda and Albert (in 1862 and 1863) in Ireland.
He probably learned his stampmaking trade in Manchester and then moved to Belfast. Between 1861-65 there was the “cotton famine” because of over production and a restriction where they couldn’t get cotton from America because of the civil war so many Manchester factories shut down, so it would make sense to move to Belfast where the Irish linen trade was based and much less affected. There were linen trademark labels so I am presuming there were Irish trademark stamps being made in Belfast too.
The alternative is that he married Sarah when she already had children born in Ireland and went straight from Manchester to America, though that seems unlikely as his children are all listed as having an Irish mother and English father.
They emigrated at some point after 1863 and had their daughter Alice in Massachusetts in 1868. The family then made their way to Providence, which was the centre of “Stencil cutting” in the Northeast.
It is interesting that Albert was following his father into the stampmaking trade.
So what this single stamp has showed is that there was a direct link between Manchester stampmakers and American Stencil cutters. The stamps are identical in dimension and construction techniques.
The reasons why John Cosgrove moved from Manchester to Providence via Ireland will probably never be known but putting his name on the side of this stamp for the Mexican market has revealed a wealth of information about the trade and the Cosgrove family history.
The stamp itself would have been made no later than 1893 because the Mexico coat of arms changed in that year but cannot have been made before 1868 because John Cosgrove lived in Ireland at that point.
If anyone wants to add any more information, such as finding information on John Cosgrove’s father, the date when the Cosgrove family emigrated to America, or what happened to the Cosgrove children, I would love to hear from you.