Bundle of red cloth wrapped in paper labelled, “Specimens of red dye upon cotton”, some dated and numbered and wrapped in their own papers.
This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham, from c.1795 through to his death in 1819. Although Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, his workshop contains a wide variety of objects from many different projects, from chemistry to sculpture-copying.
The description of the item was written by Edward Collins, the land agent responsible for Heathfield when the workshop was given to the Science Museum in 1924. Collins could not always identify what he was looking at, but always described what he saw clearly. This has allowed his descriptions to form the basis of subsequent research.
A paper wrapper, endorsed in Watt's hand "Specimens of Red Dye upon Cotton", containing a bundle of numerous small pieces of different cloths that have been dyed red. The intensity of the colour varies greatly. Evidently these specimens were numbered, having small squares of paper, with numerals written in ink, pasted (?) on, although some do not now have such labels. These items may well be associated with Watt's experiments on 'Turkey red' dyestuffs although, interestingly, the outer wrapper is a sheet of Whatman paper printed on both sides with a list of the parts of a beam pumping engine. Messrs. Boulton and Watt were pioneers in business organisation that included the printing of various forms - so here we have inadvertant evidence of how the steam engine business was documented.