I’ve been working with a large collection of shipper’s tickets, both loose and pasted into albums. The shipper’s tickets were attached to bolts of cloth or yarn to help the manufacturers make their products instantly recognisable to their customers. They were deliberately designed to be brightly coloured to stand out, and featured motifs that the textile merchants thought would appeal to the fabric’s destined marketplaces.
The collection contains hundreds of different examples. It was necessary to narrow down the selection to make sure that we were getting a good range for the exhibition, and because those that we selected needed to be photographed in order for us to make facsimiles for display.
It took about an hour to make a ‘longlist’, although I didn’t have to do it by myself! After that, they were photographed (which I think took about a day or so) and the team then selected the final list from the digitised images.
By selecting the tickets in this way it enabled us to put a lot more of them on display. If we hadn’t selected them and then made digital copies, we would have had to put the whole album on display. This would have meant that a) the album was put at risk because of the environment b) visitors would only have been able to see one page of the album and c) the book would no longer be accessible to researchers.
We chose to create a display of the shipper’s tickets because they demonstrate the huge range of different places that Manchester cloth went to, the number of different companies that were involved and the work that went into ‘marketing’ their wares. They demonstrate a ‘sub-industry’ of researchers, artists and printers working on these tickets alone, and show that marketing and branding teams are not a new invention! They also make a very vibrant and colourful display which conveys the energy and vitality of the textiles industry at its peak.
You can see some of the tickets from the collection below. You can see some of these tickets in the Textiles Gallery. Click to see the full images:
All images © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum