The Sun Bleach Stamp Book

by admin on 21/08/2011

There are several stamp books in my collection and I have created an ebook version of one here for you to enjoy.  Contact me directly if you would like a link to the ebook


Merchants all had printed copies of their trademark stamps and each stamp was individually numbered. The books were made to match the size of folded cotton fabric pieces, so measure about 30 inches by 12.  The stamps would be sent out to the packing houses to print onto the fabric pieces to identify and brand the cloth. A large part of the textile trade was the sale of plain white fabric and bleaching companies would take orders, bleach, pack, bale and ship the fabric off across the world on behalf of the merchant. The merchant would simply get a sample of the fabric sent and a copy of how the pieces were stamped.

The merchant would instruct the bleacher which stamps were to be applied to each order using the stamp numbers. A typical order would be that the bleacher had to use stamp numbers 134, 2044, 53 and 1738 on the piece. The person who stamped the fabric piece (he was called a “maker-up”) would then go to the stamp book, look at which numbers correlated to which stamp design and then select the correct stamps from the shelving. The stamps would also often have a number marked on the side which matched the number in the stamp book.

Each bleachworks would have thousands of stamps in stock. Many would be owned by merchants but the bleacher would also have their own generic stamps which merchants could use (such as “yard” stamps or common words such as “cotton” or “fine quality”) and that related to the bleacher. In the book are Sun related brands such as Sundial, Solar shirting and images such as a baby holding the fabric up to the sun and a diagram of the solar system. Bleacher’s stamps commonly had their company name or  acronym hidden within the design of their stamps, so that merchants could know who owned the trademark.

This stamp book was discarded by a merchant 20 years ago and is typical,  in that it shows the full range of stamps used by a bleacher. It begins with examples of the individual fonts which were used to make up any word required, such as a place or customer name. Then there are decorative “yard” stamps which had a space, into which could be inserted a number stamp corresponding to the length of fabric piece. There are some pages of the smaller “truth” or “bolt” stamps which were put on the very end of the fabric piece to show that it was of the length described by the yard stamp and hadn’t been shortened before sale. Later in the book there are frame stamps which would surround a shippers ticket so that the original ticket couldn’t be peeled off and another one of a different size attached. There are also pages showing how a complete fabric piece would be printed with a combination of several stamps.


The book is useful to show the variety of stamps used and the colours used other than the standard indigo, such as gold and red. The date of the book is probably around 1920 but stamps often lasted years and some designs in it date back to the late 1800’s. The other stamp books I have are earlier than this one but the Sun Bleaching has all the elements and is the best laid out example. The trademarks designs themselves cover African,  Far Eastern, the Home Trade and Asian cultures, reflecting the four corners of the world where Manchester fabric was sold.


The Sun Bleach Company was based in the Horwich and Bolton area near Manchester, an area which had specialised in bleaching fabric from the earliest times when cloth was bleached with natural substances such as lime and urine then left out to dry in fields known as “crofts”.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Kennard March 7, 2012 at 9:10 PM

I am very intrigued to learn and see more of your sun bleach stamp book(s). I report on typography and book design issues for my blog, Letterology and this would be of great interest. Might you be willing to provide more images on this topic? Links and credits are always provided certainly.

By the way, I reported on your textile stamps some time ago, which you can find here:

All the best,
Jennifer Kennard
Sr. Letterologist


juli March 16, 2012 at 1:55 PM

Hi Adrian,
Sadly the link isn’t working anymore! Hope you can fix it.


Laurel Benner September 8, 2019 at 4:33 AM

Hello! I was browsing looking for anything to help answer a 34 year old question…as a kid growing up my Aunt gave us a local history book sparking my interest in the subject forever. In the book was a page or so devoted to the center of town. Fast forward 25 years plus and there I was driving to college and pondering what was I going to use as a subject of my classroom project for interior design?… as I sat at the light waiting for the light to turn green I looked over and saw the old house and thought hey I know I’ll turn it into a restaurant! So it flew really nicely with school and I got an award actually and then I went back and the owner called me and said hey bring your drawings up here So I can see them! And so I did and then he had his sons tearing things out, which I was mortified after I realized what was going on, as the lady from the historical society told me he was trying to tear the building down from the inside out. Well the point of me writing you is that in the book there was actually a receipt for something like “25 yards of sheeting”, so with that in mind while the guys were tearing out some of the interior I started to peel back some wallpaper in a room upstairs and pulled it down about 5 feet and lo and behold there was the word “sheeting” vertically in those blue letters like what you see on your website. And the receipt copied into the book, says 1810! I had documentation that the owner of the building at that time had signed his name and it was the same owner on the receipt as the owner of the building. So we knew there was a degree of genuinity… The sheeting I went ahead and took a piece of it and put it in a bag I have it actually still somewhere! But I’ve always been curious did people use sheeting as an insulator possibly? And Walls? If so, I have seen an example of it in Centerville Ohio is where I saw it. Thank you for listening, Laurel


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