From the earliest ages up to the present date, shawls have been worn as a graceful article of apparel by the inhabitants of almost every nation. It is worn by both male and female in oriental countries now, and it was worn by the young maidens and Warriors "df-Mestine, in the days when Israel's Shepherd- King tuned his harp to the noblest strains that ever fell upon the ears of man. The shawls of ancient oriental nobles, were enriched with the lamousjurple dyes of Tyre, and the royal sisters of Macedonia's hero, no doubt worked with their own gentle fingers the embroidered scarf that waved from the shoulders of the conqueror of Persia. The shawl is the most distinguished article of dress, and ever has been, and it is no wonder that the very manufacture of it has conferred fame upon nations, districts, and cities, the inhabitants of which have become distinguished in its production. Who has not heard of the beautiful crape shawls of Canton, the fine woolen shawls of Cashmere, the camel hair shawls of Bokhara, the woolen and silk shawls of the city ot Lyons, in France, and those of the city of Paisley, in Scotland. In America, England, and among the most of the inhabitants of Europe, except Scotland, the shawl is not an article of male apparel, but the passion for shawls is prevalent among the females of almost every land, our own among the number. The camel hair shawls of Bokhara are the finest and dearest in the world. They are woven in the simple oriental loom by hand (for the natives there have not yet learned the use of the fly pin), in strips of about eight inches wide, and these are sewed together with the needle, and done so cunningly, that the joinings cannot be discovered by the eye. These rude artisans weave most beautiful and chaste patterns, which are copied direct from flowers or leaves placed beside the weaver; they copy nature, and our best artists are distinguished as they approach nearest the works of this teacher. Some shawls are very expensive, and at the court of R_ussia,_the ladies judge of the grandeur of one another by their shawls as by their diamonds. The finest shawls manufactured in Europe are those of Lyons. The French have for a great many years bean distinguished for their fine taste in patterns ; but the pine-leaf of the oriental shawl forms the most prominent and beautiful radiating figure in all shawl patterns. It has at least become to be regar ded as such; no shawl of flowery pattern, therefore, seems to look well without it. Paisley, in Scotland, has long been distinguished for beautiful woven shawls. The great improvement in their weaving, however, is due to that ingenious Frenchman, Jacquard, the inventor of the Jacquard loom, indeed, it is strictly true, that the fine silks and woolen shawls now made in Britain were introduced by Frenchmen—the Hugenots who were banished from France by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Paisley woven shawls are the kind most commonly worn in America; some of them are very beautiful, and as it respects price, no shawls ofjihe same quality can compete with them. Shawls of the Scotch character have been manufactured for some years in the Bay State Mills, Mass., and at the West Troy Mills, N. Y. We have seen some very beautiful shawls which were made at both of these establishments, and at the recently closed Fair of the American Institute, some very excellent shawls made at West Troy were exhibited. They were of the tartan pattern (checked) and appeared to good advantage. This kind of pattern belongs apparently to the Celtic tribes, but especially those of the Scottish Highlands, where men as well as women wear them.— The shape of the Paisley shawl, and the tartan (commonly called the plaid) is rectangular, long, and graceful, and made so as to double over on the shoulder. We have seen accounts of the gentlemen's plaid shawl having become a common article of dress in many places in England, and it is now seen not un-frequently in France. It is beginning to be worn by American gentlemen, and is not now a subject of wonder in our streets; it is also for sale in all our large stores, and as it is a most convenient and comfortable article of apparel, it may yet become (not fa- shionable we would say) consistently common sense, and common to wear them. It appears to us that these shawls can be profitably manufactured in the United States; we would therefore be, glad to see a more extended market opened for them. The shawls of Britain are made from Australian wool, some of which is very fine, and it is lurnished at a very moderate price. Our country offers a wide field for the growth of wool, which must not be neglected if we desire to become distinguished for the manufacture of shawls. We see by the London Mechanics' Mag., that a patent has lately been taken out by a Paisley weaver for making two piled shawls out ofsone, and using no wires in the weaving. Aidaxible piled shawl is woven with the pattern on both sides, and then it is split open to divi'de it into two. But there is one kind of shawl to which we would wish to direct the attention of some of our manufacturers, we mean the fine woolen printed shawl, which is produced by block printing of many beautiful patterns, and in great numbers in Lyons, France. The woven shawl looks heavier and richer than the printed one, but f orlight shawls we prefer those that are printed. Every kind of pattern can be produced by block printing, at one-fiftieth of the cost required to produce the patterns on the woven shawls. The shawls for block printing have but to be woven plain, then washed, stretched, and made ready for the printing; the colors are printed on them with blocks, of any pattern, and after this they have but to be steamed in a box where they are covered with rice husks to raise the colors, after which they are soon ready for the market. The woven shawl has its pattern punched in cards, then laced in the harness of the loom, and then woven with yarn of various shades and colors, a tedious and expensive operation. Some harness for looms cost an enormous amount of money; one shawl exhibited at the World's Fair, was so intricate and beautiful in pattern, that the harness for wearing it cost $2,500. After the woven shawl is out of the loom, it has to be jligged, singed, pressed, c. Now all this tremendous amount of operations have to be performed to produce the pattern, this can be done by block printing in as many seconds as it requires days—and for some patterns weeks and months,—to produce a woven pattern. Long shawls are the most fashionable and the best; we do not know whether Cooper's " Skimmer of the Seas," the hero of the " Indian Shawl," wore a long shawl or a short one, we only know that it was a rich and beautiful one, and the time will come, we believe, when they will be more commonly worn by both sexes, instead of only one, as is now the case in our country.
This article was originally published with the title "Shawls" in Scientific American 8, 9, 69 (November 1852)