Indian muslin cloth as described in the 'Costumes of Hindostan' Balthazar Solvyns. "The texture of some of them is extremely delicate, that when spread between two persons, the appearance is that of a mist or fog, and although a yard and a quarter wide, can be drawn through a wedding ring." The image shows a miniature painting from the collection, with the Imam of Oudh presumably wearing an attire made of fine muslin.
"The loom is rude and simple, yet with such machinery they manufacture those beautiful muslins that are in Europe so much sought after and admired."
"These people are very industrious and equally inoffensive; their wages small, and they are therefore necessitated to labour incessantly to support their families, which are generally very numerous. Their children however, when they attain ten years of age, will earn their own livelihood or contribute in a great measure towards it."
-'Costumes of Hindostan' Balthazar Solvyns
These prints by Shoberl, F. (1822-27) illustrate the ingenious processes related cotton fabric production. The world in miniatures: Hindoostan, by Shoberl was created in the early 19th century. It is illustrated with more than hundred coloured engravings and is a part of the Museum's collection of rare books
Situated within the easy reach of cotton growing districts, Bombay (Mumbai) proved well suited for the expansion of cotton trade not only for the requirement of its own spinning factories but for the export trade to Europe, United States of America, China and Japan. Infact by the beginning of the 20th centure, Bombay was regarded as the largest cotton market in Asia and for several years a large number of cotton bales were exported from the city compared with Liverpool and the same period.
By the beginning of the 20th century the Bombay Cotton Mills were no inferior to the Lancashire textile factories in England in their general equipment and manufacturing resources (Rutnagur, Indian textile journal, 1927). Seen here is a relief map depicting the landscape of Worli region in Mumbai after the development of mill industries.
The increase in the number of cotton mills resulted in an influx of people coming to the city for work. In 1925, there were 117,230 male and 33,370 female operatives in mills of town and Kurla region of Mumbai. Special community housing was devised for the mill workers, a type of architecture referred to as 'chawl', which is still widely prevalent and is unique to the city of Mumbai.
Trademarks and labels were used on mill yarn and cloth coming into India from great Britain. The general format of a label was rectangular with ornate margins and a central image which depicted Hindu mythological figures or deities, members of British Royal family, or jugglers and belly dancers, nautch girls, artisans and service renders (Jain, 2016).
Imperial Gazetteer of India, Berhampore to Bombay Vol. VIII. Oxford : Clarendon Pres, 1908.
Imperial Gazetteer of India, The Indian Empire Vol.III. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907.
Jain, Jyotindra. 2016, Vol.68 No.3. "The Visual-Culture of the Indo-British Cotton Trade." A Story of Early Indian Advertising . Mumbai: The Marg Foundation. 34-49.
Bombay Industries: The Cotton Mill. A Review of the Progress of the Textile Industry in Bombay from 1850 to 1926 and the Present Constitution, Management and Financial Position of the Spinning and Weaving Factories. Edited by Sorabji M. Rutnagur. Indian Textile Journal, 1927.
Tarlo, Emma. 1996. Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India. University of Chicago Press.
2015. Fabric of India, Rosemary Crill (ed.). London: Victoria & Albert Museum.
Advisors: Dr. Jyotindra Jain, Monisha Ahmed and Mayank Mansingh Kaul.