HISTORY OF LINEN
a lecture by W. H. WEBB, F.T.I.
LINEN is one of the earliest products known to civilization. When man was in his primitive state, subsisting on the wild animals trapped in the chase, the skins of the animals he caught formed his only clothing. Later, when nomadic communities formed, driving their herds of cattle across the plains of eastern Europe during the great migrations, the wool from the flocks of sheep was used to clothe their masters.
After a long period man settled down, built himself cities, and tilled and cultivated the land. Amongst the products of the soil was flax, out of the fiber of which linen was made. Linen is, therefore, the earliest vegetable fabric to be woven.
THROUGH the ages linen has persisted. The romance of its history is closely interwoven with the Bible stories. When Jehovah wished to smite the Egyptians, who held His chosen people in subjection, one of the plagues which descended upon the fertile Valley of the Nile destroyed the crops, and we read that "the flax and the barley was smitten, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was boiled." The word "bolled" is used in the North of Ireland to-day, and means that the seed capsule has formed. Linen has always been held in reference as an emblem of purity. and frequent mention of it occurs throughout the Old Testament.
Whilst the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, and had strayed far from the paths that Moses had laid down, ensnared in the worship of the Golden Calf, it became necessary to lead their feet once again back to the Tabernacle.
The description of the Tabernacle, which formed the central point of worship for the tribes of Israel, tells us that the curtains were of fine linen, and when Aaron, the high priest, entered the holy place. he put on a holy linen coat-and girdle, and upon his head was a linen mitre, This shows the unique place held by linen in the history of ancient times, and the reverence accorded it is further demonstrated in the New Testament, which states that when the Revelation of things to come was vouch safed to St. John, the seven angels, who held in their hands the past and future of mankind, were clothed in pure and white linen; and a final quotation from the same Book of Revel actions informs us that the garments of those chosen for eternal life and happiness will he of fine linen. This, naturally, is comforting to the members of the linen trade!
The use of linen for priestly vestments was not confined to the Israelites, but from Plutarch, who lived and wrote one hundred years after the birth of Christ, we know that also the priests of Isis wore linen because of its purity.
Egyptian Linen 1st Dynasty
Modern Linen - Recently Woven
The Antiquity of Linen
WHEN the tomb of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, Rameses II., who died 1258 B.C, - 3,000 years ago - was discovered in 1881, the linen wrappings were in a state of perfect preservation.
In the Belfast Library there is preserved the mummy of "Kaboolie,' the daughter of a priest of Ammon, who died 2,500 years ago. The linen on this mummy is in a like state of perfection. The present research in Egypt has resulted in many and wonderful discoveries, and it is a matter of historical verity that when the tomb of Tutankamen was opened, the linen curtains were found intact whereas all other fabrics crumbled into dust.
In the British Museum, London, are pieces of mummy-linen 6,000 years old. Recently cuttings from these were microscopically examined and photographed (as illustrated) at the Linen Industry Research Institute, Belfast, and were found to be as structurally perfect as linen made today. This bears out in every particular the contention we make of its invincible resistance to the march of time. This is also important from the hygienic point of view, for there can be no doubt that harmful germs leave linen severely alone, otherwise, in these cases, the linen would long ago have turned to dust.
Earliest Linen Industry
IN olden days, in almost every country, each family grew flax and wove the linen for its own use; but the earliest records of an established linen industry are 4,000 years old, and come to us from Egypt.
The Phoenicians, who, with their merchant fleet, opened up new channels of commerce to the peoples of the Mediterranean, besides developing the tin mines of Cornwall, introduced flax growing and the making of linen into Ireland before the birth of Christ, but the internal distensions, which even in those early days were prevalent in Erin, militated against the establishment of an organized industry, and it is not until the twelfth century that we can find records of a definite attempt to systematize flax production.
When the Edict of Nantes was revoked, in A.D. 1695, many of the Huguenots who had to flee the country settled in the British Isles, and amongst them was Louis Crommelin, who was born, and brought up as a weaver of fine linen, in the town of Cambrai. He fled to Ulster, and eventually settled down in the small town of Lisburn, about ten miles from Belfast.
During the late war Cambrai became well known as one of the centers of the most desperate fighting. The name "cambric" is derived from this town.
Although the linen industry was already established in Ulster, Louis Crommelin found scope for improvement in weaving, and his efforts were so successful that he was appointed by the Government to develop the industry over a much wider range .than the small con fines of Lisburn and its surroundings. The direct result of his good work was the establishment, under statute, of the Board of Trustees of the Linen Manufacturers of Ireland in the year 1711.
About Ulster Linen Co., Inc.
The Ulster Linen Co., Inc. of New York is noted for being the most reliable source of Fine European Linens in the US. Our roots go
back to an Irish mill called The Ulster Weaving Co., Ltd. which was started over 150 years ago by John Sloan Larmor from a small
weaving division of the Ulster Spinning Co., Ltd. William Hogg Larmor, youngest son of John Sloan Larmor came to the United States
and started the present New York importing company in 1933, then also called the Ulster Weaving Co., Ltd. Both the Belfast and New
York companies recently changed their names to better reflect their corporate purpose and independence.
Our reputation for quick, courteous service and high quality products is well known. Ulster's longevity (oldest US Linen Company of
its kind, still active) is the result of placing the customer's needs first and carrying ample stock of basic linens for swift
delivery. Please review our product line and contact us when you need quality linen. You may select from linen by the yard or