From the category archives:

Shipper’s Tickets

As you may have read, I was promised that the large collection of shipper’s tickets I sold to a rich Indian art collector were to be put into a new museum in Bangalore, researched by curators and made open access for all to enjoy.

hundreds of pages of original shippers tickets were documented
© Adrian Wilson

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not getting that promise in writing as a condition of the sale. The tickets are still not in the museum and, after watching an opinion based video which is riddled with inaccuracies and bias, I am disappointed that this has turned out not to be the best place for this historically important collection. I have offered to buy back all the tickets six weeks ago but with no response from the collector, so that is that.

Fortunately, I professionally documented all the tickets before they left my archive and am now offering these high-quality photographs (which are my copyright) of a unique collection of Indian art for free to any institution that wants them. The photographs also documented original drawings, trademark applications and merchant names/ephemera related to the tickets.

If your institution or organization wants a free digital copy of this unique historic collection, just send me a DM, email me or leave a comment below and I will get right back to you. My only requirements are for a copyright credit, that they aren’t used for commercial gain and that access to the tickets for academics, students and other researchers is free.

In just a few hours I have already been contacted by an Ivy league university in the USA and a research archive in New Delhi, which has turned my major disappointment into potentially a much better result in terms of having these tickets academically and internationally researched. I’m looking forward to hearing from more interested parties I can donate them too as word hopefully spreads

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The Distortion Of Art History

by admin on 08/03/2023

A response to those who are using these textile trademarks to push their agenda and a false history

Original shipper’s ticket for the Indian market ticket from the Adrian Wilson collection
and a facsimile, hand-painted as decoration (including the merchant’s name) in India.
© Ilay Cooper

Manchester was unique as a city of Free Trade for all and as such, it attracted textile merchants from around the world, especially after the Levant, East India and Royal African monopolies expired. The city had more foreign consulates than London, where information and news was freely available from remote markets, plus the local cloth importers in far off markets would provide the exporters with accurate and relevant ideas as to what kind of images would appeal to specific buyers in their markets.

Textile trademarks were the largest and most specifically targeted branding exercise in history, carried out by a wide range of nationalities who really understood what type of images would appeal to their customers.

Photo of Indian child holding cricket bat sent by an Indian importer to Manchester and the resulting ticket
Tandil balanced rock in Argentina
Merchant Street in Rangoon
Idea chosen for India and final ticket design

It is important to understand that the worst thing that could happen to any merchant was that their potential customers around the world, mostly women, found the image unappealing, or even offensive. Unlike modern global branding by companies such as Nike or Coca-Cola, the images and designs chosen as brands varied immensely and were probably the largest concentration of “ethnic” art ever brought together in one place. In 1913, an incredible 250 million pieces of fabric were hand-stamped and ticketed for export. Of the 800 international merchants in the city, the biggest could have around 10,000 different trademarks for the specific markets they traded in. Merchants Stavert Zigomola, who sold in Latin America, had 2,500 different trademark designs.

Stavert Zigomola ticket celebrating independence from colonial rule by showing Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap and holding a length of pink “liberty satin” fabric

Many of the tickets I have seem bizarre or offensive to our modern eyes but they weren’t designed for us. What looks like KKK outfits in the Africa label selection is actually a traditional Nigerian costume and this ticket, executed in the locally recognized style of a traditional Chinese silk painting, would no doubt be banned by current social media algorithms in the west…

Manchester was the first industrial city and, like China today, created factories full of oppressed workers in order to manufacture fabric cheaper than anyone else in the world. Manchester cotton was world renowned as being cheap but good quality, capturing 80% of the world’s fabric markets in the 1880’s, partly because the merchants who sold it and the importers who brought it to market used these stamps and tickets to generate a brand loyalty amongst customers from Argentina to Belgium to China. Not by sticking a standard logo on it like Apple or Sony, (who curiously are never accused of patronizing commercial colonialism despite their intense government ties and local tax avoidance) but by respecting and appealing to the potential buyer’s local culture, even by adapting their well known brand to different markets.

A popular brand design, adapted to suit different markets
Dumbell Exercise brand adaptation

Manchester cloth was a standard in terms of quality, so a recognizable brand was also a seal of good manufacture, with strength, colours that wouldn’t run etc. If there was something new, such as a bicycle, steam train, building or ship, images of those things would be used as brands in order to be associated with that modernity. Current brands promote their product’s desirability by including any religious, aristocratic or celebrity associations. Merchant shipper’s tickets were already masters of this kind of branding 150 years ago but are now being criticized for the same thing modern marketers, including museums, do

A random selection of tickets used in African markets
A random selection of tickets used in Asian markets
The map of India was a common device for tickets there

The image of an elephants couldn’t be trademarked but they became a memorable brand if depicted doing unusual things and customers would collect them.

With literally hundreds of thousands of designs created, there is an undeniable proof that, in the Manchester textile trade at least, it was considered absolutely vital to respect your customer’s culture. If you offended them or they felt patronized by your trademark, they would simply choose the one on display next to it for sale by your competitor.

The problem now is that this idea of colonial powers actually being interested in local culture, albeit to make money by encouraging a purchase, goes against the perception and stereotype of the oppressor and the oppressed. It is one thing dismissing this work of countless indigenous artists as mere “commercial art” but far worse is how an ignorance of this `part of art history means it is being used to depict these images as patronizing and colonial. The complete opposite of what the vast majority were.

Not your stereotypical colonialist image

There are several things to note here once you look at the history. Manchester fabric was famous and popular across the world. Yes, it was sold in the colonies (and yes, Manchester textile workers were thanked by Lincoln for supporting the abolishment of slavery in the US) but, like the same fabric from China today, it was simply a globally successful good quality and cheap product. Like Chinese produced fabric sold now, Victorian merchants worked with whoever who ran the country where it was sold. If the British were being kicked out of a country and if Manchester merchants could increase their sales there by depicting that on a trademark, they did so…

Manchester merchant ticket depicting a Malayan Communist Party activist,
who overthrew the British in Singapore

As mentioned before, there were so many designs, it is easy to make selective and biased judgements, especially from our modern perspective. Again, if the image offended the customer, the merchant lost the sale, so to judge these images (often from a tiny sample) as offensive is the distortion of history to either gain attention or not appear contrarian. However, ignorance and agenda are no way to learn from past or present history. I watched an Indian museum promotional video recently where two employees, who are not researchers, describe the Indian images as “exoticized” when the images were in fact chosen and created by Indians 100 years ago to appeal to Indians and would only ever appear in Indian markets. Their opinion was based on two selective examples from just 300 in their collection. Click here to see just one of the 60 volumes I digitized from my collection from a ticket printer. I invite you to look through the hundreds of images and make your own mind up if they were respectful to their local customers, or not. Count the proportion of images that are stereotypical British colonialist, compared to the images that are Indian. Despite the curator’s naïve assumptions, the book shows that these were not “exoticized” images, chosen by a British merchant in 1800’s Manchester as his ignorant idea of Indian culture. The fact is, Westerners actually never saw these tickets because they were only stuck on cloth that went on display in the Indian markets, plus Indian artists created them, so who exactly were they being “exoticized” for?

To be fair, I do understand that it is good to look at history from different perspectives and with fresh attitudes but it is vital, especially if you are a museum or other academic institution, not to be selective just to prove a viewpoint that isn’t based on fact. For instance, it would be easy to draw different conclusions from the following two examples…

“Hindu With Child”

This ticket could easily be used to illustrate colonialism by showing a white, wealthy child riding on the back of an Indian. What a perfect allegoric image for those who want to see it that way. However, we do not know who the people depicted actually are, or any context.

Man Carrying Child

Conversely, during the colonization of India, why did a merchant take this very English looking illustration and not make the child white, depicting India supporting Britain like in the previous example?
The point being that anyone can select particular tickets, look at them from their perspective and distort the narrative to fit them to their agenda.

Indian deity scene

Even tickets depicting religious scenes are being criticized as wrong, when in fact the merchants would serialize tales such as the Ramayana or depict the local’s beliefs so that they could be used as free decorations in homes or places of worship, as explained in more detail by academic Ilay Cooper here and in this, one of his many photos of the supposedly negative tickets actually being appreciated by the local people.

A religious ticket forming the centerpiece of a mural in India
© Ilay Cooper

The image above takes us back to the first, which has been repainted, including the supposedly oppressive merchant’s name, by another local artist. No doubt because they didn’t find it patronizing, colonial, exoticized, misogynistic or offensive.

Courtesy Ilay Cooper

Here is a local Indian merchant importer or ‘dalal’, named Babu Shiv Bux showing the cloth he sells, with the shipper’s tickets attached. Before independence, India purchased textile machinery from Manchester’s mills and factories as they closed down following the 1929 Depression. Tickets also began to be printed in India and, apart from showing very British subjects such as Royalty, were not so different at all.

One last point is that the curators at the Indian museum only has around 300 tickets and they never went to the Manchester warehouses, never spoke to the merchants, didn’t look at this free resource website. I have spoken with two renowned academics with decades of research between them on these tickets, one being the most revered Indian writer on this subject, and both were appalled at the way these tickets are being misrepresented by a museum that freely admits they are just putting out “opinion” videos to attract “young people”. Despite the museum claiming that they are Creating a culture of constructive feedback and openness to discussion and Working responsibly and being accountable they have blocked the comments section on the videos and had no interest in my free offer of describing the actual history of these tickets in a new video.

The museum’s YouTube video was in English, without any Indian language subtitles. It used what sounded like a copyright free “upbeat and inoffensive” western jingle in the background instead of Indian music. The video content was about one culture not really understanding the culture of market they were promoting their brand to – just giving them clichés and stereotypes of what they thought they wanted to see to attract attention.

Ironically, they didn’t even realize that their video was doing exactly what they were accusing the textile merchants of.

As a serious museum, not a Twitter feed desperate for attention, I hope they understand their responsibility to present the facts fully and invite experts to pass on their knowledge and put across different opinions. A museum should never misrepresent history just to increase visitor income, or for social media ‘likes’ and ‘views’.

Deity tickets pasted on walls in Fatehpur, India.
© Ilay Cooper

And I hope this website helps people understand that, although slavery and colonialism was and still is a stain on our lives, in Victorian Manchester, alongside the toxic, child-labour factories was the largest collection of ethnocentric art that ever existed, depicting cultures or traditions around the world that have long since vanished.

An image that is baffling to us…
…but instantly recognizable as a proverb in a region of Nigeria

It is a real shame if, because of ignorance and bias, people dismiss all that creative talent and the important lesson that it is to everyone’s advantage, both ethically and economically to respect and appreciate different cultures.

I did not name the museum or link to the video, which was so upsetting and one-sided that I posted this response, as I do not want the video to gain any popularity. However, I am always happy to share, either privately or via a talk, any of my collection, history or personal knowledge with anyone who is interested.

This post’s content has been checked by people across three continents, including India, who between them have nearly 100 years of practical and academic research between them but encourage anyone to add their direct or research knowledge or perspective to this fascinating but overlooked part of art and branding history.


First Zoom talk on my collection

by admin on 03/08/2020

Click here to watch a recording of the zoom on YouTube

At 4pm Eastern Time on 4th August 2021, I will guide you through the collection and its history with a live zoom webinar.

If you missed the webinar, it has been uploaded to YouTube here


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.



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.


I just acquire this ticket, named “Rest 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.









Although the huge collection I built up was really about being in Manchester when the textile merchants were closing down in the 1980’s, a good source for anyone wanting to start collecting shipper’s tickets is eBay.

Often described as “fabric labels” or “linen labels”, there are a few that appear for sale ranging from $5 to $50 each.

The following designs from  merchant operating in the Far East were recently offered by a German eBay store seller (email can be provided on request)  and really are some great old examples of trademarks that still pop up now and again.

Just don’t bid against me please!
28935f67bf7ceb06b7dab17bf82787379  4047a6bf65813443564cd0a4674da95d4 2731b25c9ad820064c0bae5bc7834d072   300cef7e8a15725576fe76d4fd53e48fa  49f62b9d9c6548c7c156c72f699966b47 44b4e683f30085434b6347e662a62c84b  24cac48e10939b3c5b1621fe26673c4ef







I have just completed the task of scanning and creating an eBook of an old Machester book containing tickets which go back to the 1830’s.

Malcolm Ross & Co. primarily sold cotton thread into Japan, China and India and this book was put together in around 1925 as a definitive catalogue of the trademarks used by Ross and their customers in the Far East. Judging by the style of printing and illustration, some of the tickets date from the 1830’s and there are some dates in the book as late as the 1920’s, so this collection is unique in that in spans the 100 years of printing and trademark development from plain color bookplate type labels, to 16 colour tickets….

Early label design






Indian loop the loop ticke 









The ethnic variety is astounding and if any of you can help translate or explain some of the text and imagery, I would really appreciate it. The reason why there are several ticket designs in a variety of colors is that each color denoted a different type of thread, so the buyer could buy using the color coding if they were illiterate.

I would be interested to know the meaning or use of these for instance

letter tickets



























The book contains a photograph of an Indian looking child holding a cricket bat

Indian child cricketer









and the ticket that was created from the photo, which shows that Manchester ticket printers used images supplied from foreign markets to create designs. I assume the child may be the son or daughter of the import merchant

Cricketer ticket










Many of the tickets are listed as being printed by Norbury Natzio of Manchester which was a large   printing company famous for employing Adolphe Valette at the same time these tickets were drawn, so maybe he had a hand in their creation.