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Sample Book, Genuine Turkey Red

This is a Sample book. It was made for Sun and Lion Brand. We acquired it in 1967. Its medium is label: woven cotton samples, leather binding, paper label, brass rivets. It is a part of the Textiles department.

The term Turkey red refers not to a dye, but to a technique for dyeing cotton a brilliant, wash-fast scarlet red, practiced throughout the Ottoman Empire but unknown in Europe. In order to discover the secret process for themselves, textile firms in England and France sent industrial spies to Turkey and Greece, or imported master dyers and established them at their workshops.
The process was labor-intensive and difficult, requiring 15 to 20 steps, including multiple baths in lye, potash, sheep dung, ox blood, and rancid olive oil. The technique was not adaptable to calico printing, and could only be used for dyeing yarns, or, with some difficulty, whole cloth. This sample book contains twenty-eight solid red samples of varying weights of cotton cloth, from batiste to canvas.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Industrial Espionage.

This object was donated by Harvey Smith.

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Sample Plate (Denmark), 1930s
  • moulded and glazed porcelain, with enamelled color.
  • Museum purchase from Charles E. Sampson Memorial Fund.
  • 2003-5-4

Cite this object as

Sample Book, Genuine Turkey Red; Made for Sun and Lion Brand ; England; label: woven cotton samples, leather binding, paper label, brass rivets; 1967-20-35

We have 1 video that features Sample Book, Genuine Turkey Red.

Collections in Motion: Turkey Red Sample Book

Demonstration of the Turkey Red Sample Book being opened, closed, and pages turned.

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Making Design.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Sample Book, Genuine Turkey Red |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=13 April 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>