Shipper’s Tickets

by Adrian on 09/08/2010

Often incorrectly called “bale labels”  even though they were never used on bales of fabric, shipper’s tickets became very popular with fabric merchants. They were very colorful, relatively cheap to produce and were glued onto the front of the fabric piece along with the trademark stamps.

This South African “Meysale” brand ticket above shows a fabric piece would have been sold in a store, with a ticket attached. Below is an actual fabric piece including the original ticket, probably showing the merchant importer.

Specialist tickets began life as plain paper labels such as the ones below, which would have been created by any general printer and stuck on the fabric alongside the stamps

As technology improved, options included colors, foil and embossing

Labels evolved into specialist Shipper’s Tickets once cheap color printing technology developed in the late 1800’s and by the turn of the century, the majority were lithostone printed in about 16 colors. Specialist printing firms such as B Taylor grew huge and at one point employed 20 full time artists just to illustrate shipper’s tickets. Smaller merchants could buy “stock” tickets from printer’s sample books rather than commission their own, with any company name being able to be overprinted on the ticket. Larger merchants created tickets to match their stamp designs, or created tickets which were much more decorative than the stamps. Women and animals were always popular subjects but merchants serialized designs to make them collectible, including Hindu fables such as the Ramayana on tickets. Ilay Cooper made a detailed study of the icons used in remote temples in India. He found many original shipper’s tickets still attached to temple walls where they are still worshipped, or even copied in paintings, complete with their western merchant names!

As with the stamp designs, shipper’s tickets were carefully designed to attract a multitude of cultures and beliefs to buy a merchant’s brand of cloth. What follows is a random selection from my archive which show designs from around the world. Some are glossy finish, some are matte to emulate Asian silk paintings but this is a tiny representation of the diverse of ethnic images which Victorian textile merchants used as specific marketing tools.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Paas February 16, 2015 at 11:19 PM

You mention that B. Taylor was a major manufacturer of these shipper’s tickets. Can you tell me where the firm was located and when it was active?



admin February 25, 2015 at 1:57 PM

B Taylor was based in Manchester, with sales offices in China


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