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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Mexico 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.


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







After a chance encounter with Philip Bailey, the artist was asked to produce 35 original pieces for Earth Wind & Fire’s 35th anniversary.

As always, the artist created the art for free and produced the varied interpretations of each year and each song in only two days.

The pieces were given out by the band to people who had played a big part in their career, from fans to musicians.


click here or the images below to see all the designs




New collection of letters acquired

by admin on 18/10/2013

Thanks to this site, a reader from Yorkshire, England contacted me to sell his collection of letter and number stamps, which doubles the size of my single character collection.They were in trays and random but have been since sorted and I share them here with you.

Copyright Adrian WIlson Copyright Adrian Wilson


Below is my existing collection of numbers and letters, with several complete alphabets. I hope some of the random spare letters match some of the fonts from the new collection.

I also wonder if missing letters could be made using a 3D printer?

copyright Adrian Wilson


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This is my appearance with samples from the collection as a special collector guest on the BBC Antiques Roadshow when it visited Manchester, England.

Click on the image below or here to watch the video

Antiques Roadshow Antiques Roadshow









The video is copyright BBC and is shown here for non-commercial, educational purposes


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.






I recommend anyone interested in the history of theses amazing trademarks try and attend a special lecture later this month given by my friends at the Bolton Museum….

‘Bolts around the World’: The Global Appeal of Bolton’s Bolt Label Collection with Teri Booth, Documentation Assistant

Bolton was the center of the bleaching industry and their museum archives include many trademark stamps and labels which will be used to illustrate this fascinating lecture.

Bolton Museum was one of the first museums to realise the cultural significance of this part of the industry and have a webpage dedicated to the subject


Friday 24 February 1pm to 1.30pm at

Learning Studio 1 in Bolton Museum, Aquarium and Archive or the Library Lecture Theatre

Le Mans Crescent



Free, No booking required.

Telephone: 01204 332211


I have tried hard to find any trace of stampmakers who worked in America. The mills of New England folded, stamped and labelled their goods exactly as it was done in Manchester.

Here is an example of an American trademark stamped faceplate from the Lonsdale Co. Providence RI from my collection

However, despite several museum enquiries and lots of research I couldn’t find out if the stamps that were used were made in America or imported from England.

The trade was so huge in Manchester and the stampmakers so skilled and probably cheaper, I thought it was probable that they had a trade exporting the stamps. I was wrong and the following article, copied from the July 1963issue of the Maine Antique Digest. If anyone has an original copy of this, I would love to see the illustrations that accompany the text.

“American hand-printing blocks used on yard goods are rare indeed, though recently several English blocks were noted in the gift department of a Baltimore department store. In some the design was hand-carved; in others the design was set in copper pins; all were simple geometric patterns. The blocks themselves had hollowed out hand-grips on the back. The price was $25 each. Quite possibly other department stores across the nation will come forth with more such imports.

An American type that is occasionally found, usually in the old mill towns of New England, are the later hand blocks, used not to stamp designs on yard goods, but as trademark identification. The illustrations here are of this type. David C. Hardman, who was associated with the Providence Dyeing, Bleaching & Calendering Company, rescued two large packing cases of these blocks when the company liquidated, and presented them to various museums. He explains their use thus: “When cloth was sent to commission bleacheries for scouring, bleaching, and finishing, the owner of the cloth would supply these identifying trademarks to be hand-stamped on the finished bolts. Stamping this mark, usually in blue dye, on the outside of the bolt, was the last operation before packing for shipment. The mark was useful identification in dry goods stores and on dry goods counters in small country stores. Sometimes the stamp included the name of the manufacturer and such information as “Finished soft for the needle,” or “Full Bleach.” I do not know when this method of identification started, but we stamped bolts of cloth as late as 1912.”

The first printing blocks were made of hand-carved hard wood. Later the designs were made of copper strips fastened in the wood. Designs included elaborate patriotic, Oriental, and industrial subjects as well as fancy alphabets of capital and small letters. They were very delicate and intricate, particularly the alphabets.

On the back of the Franklin figure, pictured at extreme left above, and on the “Work and Be Happy-Industry is the Road to Wealth” block, inscriptions indicate the blocks were supplied by Parsons & Girby, Copper Stamp, Stencil and Block Cutters, 111 Thorndike St., Point of Gorham, Lowell, Mass. Worn stencil lettering on the back of the X shows Wm. Parsons Co., Copper Stamp and Stencil Cutter, Lowell, Mass., as the maker. The address is illegible, but seems not to be Thorndike Street.”

Stamp Cutters are listed in the local trade directories around the 1850’s but the term is a broad one which could also mean manufacture of textile pattern printing blocks. This article provides direct proof that stamps were not imported but were made by local craftsmen. It is interesting that this article makes a special note of the ornate typography used on the stamps and it is serendipity that the example I have shows a “finished soft for the needle” stamp as described by the writer.


I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in the curatorial department of  the American Textile History Museum www.athm.org in Lowell Massachusetts and I want to thank the welcoming and helpful staff.

They have an excellent collection of shipper’s tickets and I was delighted to be shown some obscure textile trademark books.  “A Directory of Textile Merchandise including textile brands and trademarks“, first edition, 1918 opens with the proclamation that

” Trademarks to a manufacturer or merchant represent something akin to that which the flag of a country represents to a loyal citizen. They are badges of honor, distinguishing marks, emblems to be proud of, to be kept above reproach and with a spotless reputation.”

The second edition of 1921 has an excellent 12 page guide to creating and registering trademarks. The article ends with the phrase “Trade-Marks innocently stolen are tribulations woven“.

The museum has maybe a dozen stamps, all text based. The names of the makers are stencilled in black ink on the back and also appear to be varnished, which is unlike the British unvarnished stamps that have the maker’s names die-pressed into the side. The height of the stamps was uniform and seemed a similar one to the British stamps.

These are the maker’s names as could be read on the stamps together with additional info I found about them online:

Wm Parsons Co. 3 Fletcher St, Lowell

There is no mention of this person online but it is likely he is related to


Parsons & Mealey, Lowell, Mass

PARSONS & MEALEY (from Inland Massachussets Illustraded, 1891)

Manufacturers of Copper Stamps and Stencils for Cotton and Woolen Mills Bleacheries Hosieries etc Block Cutters and Dealers in Inks Presses Boxes and Stamping Supplies No 9 Fletcher Street. It is pretty safe to conclude that a concern established for forty five years and doing a more prosperous business at last than ever before in its career is worthy of confidence and has won its position upon merit alone. Such an one is the noted stamp and stencil house of Parsons & Mealey, originally founded in 1845 by RJ Dewhurst, the style subsequently changing to Dewhurst & Parsons to whom Parsons & Mealey succeeded in 1880. Mr Parsons died in 1881, since which time Mr John J Mealey has continued in sole control under the former name Parsons & Mealey. The works occupy two floors 30×40 feet up stairs at No 9 Fletcher street, one of which is divided by partitions into four rooms used for office designers room storage etc, while that above is utilized for factory purposes exclusively giving employment to four experts and fitted up and provided with the best improved tools and appliances. Here are made to order every description of copper stamps and stencils required by manufacturers of cotton and woolen fabrics and hosiery bleachers and others. Block cutting from original designs is also made a leading specialty and inks presses, boxes and stamping supplies of all kinds are furnished as required. First class materials and workmanship promptitude in the execution and delivery of work and goods courtesy liberality and moderate prices combined constitute the secret of long continued and growing prosperity. Orders are received almost daily by mail from all parts of the United States and the house controls a large Canadian trade. Correspondence is solicited and no pains are spared to render satisfaction

Samuel G Cooper, Lowell, Mass and Corner & Copper, 120 Central St, Lowell

Address listed as 206 Central St, Lowell in the 1913 Mass. Directory (copy below is also from Inland Massachussets Illustraded, 1891)

Manufacturer of Copper Stamps and Stencils Dealer in Stamping Inks and Supplies No 120 Central Street Mr Cooper has been in the same business in this city since 1872 up to 1885 as junior partner in the firm of Corner and Cooper Mr Corner retiring at that time The establishment occupies the entire second floor 60×80 feet of the brick building No 120 Central street and is one of the best appointed and most thoroughly equipped of the kind in the country giving employment to five or six skillful stamp and stencil designers and cutters Mr Cooper is a noted expert and his work tasty and perfect in execution is found all over the United States and Canada wherever a cotton or woolen mill is running in addition to which he is beginning to fill orders for shipment beyond seas having recently made a heavy consignment to China His annual sales range from $5,000 to $7,000 Mr Cooper’s specialties embrace every description of copper stamps and stencils for cotton and woolen mills bleacheries and hosieries head stamps for broadcloths cassimeres and flannels He also carries large stocks of and will promptly fill orders for black blue and red stamping inks stamping presses stamping boxes and stamping supplies generally


John Preston, Lowell

from a 199 auction catalog…

J. Preston Maker 193 Gorham St. Lowell Mass.,” depicting an eagle and shield, copper strips set into wooden block to form the pattern of a feathered eagle with a central shield, (one strip missing, minor age splits), lg. 7.5in. N.B. For additional and related information see The Magazine Antiques, August 1972, p. 251, Philena Moxley’s Embroidery Stamps. John Preston was listed in the Lowell Directories as a stamp maker, 1859-74.