ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History / cotton industry in Switzerland

Cotton fabrics in the eastern part of Switzerland in the 18th century.
Article dedicated to Krishna Riboud, in:
CIETA-Bulletin No 80, 2003, page 68 - 74, by Anne Wanner-JeanRichard

page 1 of 5 next Contents:
1 - Introduction
2 - Zellweger Family
  3 - Muslins in India and Switzerland
4 - Tambour Embroidery
5 - Literature, Archives
  From 1600 to 1800 India was the greatest exporter of textiles the world had ever known. The East India Companies had already brought muslin fabrics to Europe at the beginning of the 17th century, but most of these early cottons have not survived. Santina M. Levey mentions in her book the inventory signed by Bess of Hardwick in 1601, where several textiles listed are still there. Some more traces exist from the 18th century. An apron in the textile collection of St.Gallen (Inv. Nr. 21382) bears the date 1711. Margaret Swain who considers similar pieces in her publications of English and Scottish embroidery, believes that the embroidery is English but that the fine muslin fabrics were imported from the East Indies up to about 1780. In England itself the weaving of the fine fabric was carried out only after the invention of the spinning machine. In Germany whitework embroidery flourished in Saxony. Ruth Bleckwenn investigated these embroideries in her book. She also believes that the fabric for the fine Dresden work was imported from East India. During her studies she only found two "engageantes" made from fine linen fabrics. As for the embroideries, the Dresden work, she points to an early development from 1720 - 40 and a heyday from 1740 - 80. A certain Siegmund Petterlin, who was trained in the school for designers founded in Lyons, France, in 1756, seems to be responsible for some of the designs. In France a development of cotton weaving was not possible from 1686 to1759. For as long as 73 years there was a prohibition not only against cotton weaving and printing,   but also against manufacturing and wearing of it. The publication "le coton et la mode" which accompanied the exhibition in musée Galliera in Paris from November 2000 to January 2001, deals with several aspects of this problem. There were exceptions to the french prohibition: for instance, imports were permitted from time to time in Marseilles, and also in Avignon where the Pope resided. The products imported by the English and Dutch East India Companies reached France via Dunkirk by means of smuggling.

The same was true for printed cloth from Switzerland. In the western part of this country, along the Jura mountains, from Geneva to Mulhouse (a free city until 1798 when it became part of France, it was a center of textile printing) the french prohibition directly favoured the development of printed cottons in Switzerland .

A similar development could possibly be true for the manufacturing of fine cotton fabrics in Eastern Switzerland: fustian fabrics are known to have existed there since 1721. In the following years especially from 1730 onwards, the hand spinning of cotton is mentioned in many chronicles. The weaving of linen used to be a traditional craft in Eastern Switzerland, and many merchants and dealers from this region obtained international importance by exporting linen fabrics.


  Introduction Zellweger Muslins Tambour Literature    

home content Last revised July 29, 2004