India quilting - Iron screw

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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India quilting

The tradition of Indian QUILTING extends well back into the Middle Ages, with some wonderful examples from that time surviving. Caulfeild and Saward describe it in some detail. 'Much of the old Quilting is executed upon cotton tissue, and so arranged that in places the material is puffed up, and in others left plain, and these last parts embroidered with designs in many colours; so the pattern is entirely formed with quilted lines arranged as figures, aniumals, or foliage. These shapes are not simply indicated in outline, but are filled in with lines that follow the right contours of the object they delineate, and the smallest spot upon a leopard, or the curl of a horse's mane, is as faithfully rendered as the more important parts of the work.' This style of quilting was brought to Europe by the Portuguese and spread over the continent. FRENCH QUILTING was probably a European imitation. The India quilting advertised in London shops during the eighteenth century was probably a pale imitation of much of the earlier work [Caulfeild and Saward (1885, facs.1989)].

OED earliest date of use: c1710

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Caulfeild & Saward (1885, facs.1989).

India vinegar

This has been found only once in the Dictionary Archive, when it appeared in a list of exotic products [Newspapers (1760)]. It was probably a SPICE VINEGAR or otherwise flavoured, perhaps a form of CHILLI VINEGAR.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Newspapers.

Indian corn

[indian-corn; india-corn]

The common name of Zea Mays, a North American graminaceous plant, or of the grain produced by it. This is not known in the wild state, but was being cultivated by the North American Indians at the time of the discovery of America; an important cereal in the United States and in the warmer parts of the world generally, to which its cultivation has extended. It could not be grown in this country in the early modern period. Judging by the advertisements for STEEL MILLs for grinding Indian corn [Tradecards (18c.)], as well as one patent [Patents (1779)], most was used as INDIAN MEAL.

Indian corn was also called MAIZE, the more usual name today, though it is found only in official documents in the Dictionary Archive.

OED online earliest date of use: c1621

Found rated by QUARTER of 8 BUSHEL

Sources: Acts, Patents, Tradecards.

Indian leaf

The aromatic leaf of a species of Cinnamonum. Although it was an ingredient, along with many others in both MITHRIDATE and VENICE TREACLE, it does not seem to have been widely available, being found only once in a shop [Inventories (1665)], while Pemberton in his recipe for MITHRIDATE suggested 'Indian leaf, or in its stead mace' [Recipes (Pemberton)].

OED Earliest date of use: 1765

Found in units of OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Recipes.

Indian liquid true blue

A vegetable DYESTUFF, probably derived from INDIGO. In the only example noted in the Dictionary Archive, it was advertised in the 1790s along with NANKEEN DYE, accompanied with considerable puffery. Stripping that away, it seemed to have been recommended, like the LIQUID BLUE noted elsewhere, for dyeing SILK STOCKINGS and COTTON STOCKINGS, WHITE THREAD and various delicate TEXTILEs like GAUZE, MUSLIN and TIFFANY. In addition it could replace STONE BLUE and POWDER BLUE in laundry work and for making BLUE PAPER. Customers were warned to be wary of imitations often made with the use of vitriolic acid. To guard against this, genuine products were sealed with a supposedly unique 'red stamp, in the centre of which are the Arms of China, and the signature 'Fra Berkenhout' [Newspapers (1790)]. This was a common ploy to counter competition.

Not found in the OED

Found in units of BOTTLE, STONE - JAR

Sources: Newspapers.

Indian pickle

This was an alternative name for PICCALLILI, though it appeared somewhat earlier. The 5th edition of Hannah Glasse's cookery book published in 1755 contained a recipe [Glasse (1747, facs. 1983)], while the first instance of 'piccalilli' only appears some fourteen years later [Raffald (1772)]. Although it is likely the idea for this combination of vegetables, spices (particularly TURMERIC) and an acid liquor came from India or the Far East as one London retailer suggested [Tradecards (1800)], it is possible that it was by some perceived as a product of the WEST INDIES; some retailers advertised West Indian pickles, for example [Newspapers (1760)], who did not have 'Indian pickle' as such.

OED online earliest date of use: 1769

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Glasse (1747, facs. 1983), Raffald (1772).

Indian red

[indian reed; india red; indea red; inde red; ind. red; ind red]

A RED or purple PIGMENT, the one originally obtained from the East Indies in the form of an EARTH containing oxide of iron, the other as a purple OCHRE from the island of Ormus in the Persian Gulf. Later the red form was obtained artificially by roasting iron sulphate.

Red iron oxide was synthetically manufactured from the eighteenth century resulting in better consistency, but losing something of the purplish hue in order to accommodate house painters [Harley (1970)]; [Golden Artists Colours (online)]. In the mid-eighteenth century, a RED OCHRE dug out of pits in the Forest of Dean was 'sent up to London to be sold as 'Indian Red'' [Hill (1746), quoted in Bristow (1996)]. In the shops Indian red was valued in the range of 6d-10d the LB.

OED earliest date of use: 1753

Found described as GROUND, whole
Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Tradecards.
References: Bristow (1996), Golden Artists Colours (online), Harley (1970).

Indian rice

[india ditto]

Northern America has its own species of rice, Zizania aquatica, long known to the native Indian population. It has a higher proportion of protein than other rice but is difficult to harvest and therefore expensive [Masefield et al (1969)]. It is known today as 'Indian rice' but references to Indian rice in the early modern period possibly referred to the long-grain type from India now marketed as Patna rice. On the other hand, the Indian rice found advertised by a specialist food shop [Tradecards (1800)] predates the earliest date found for true Indian rice given by the OED by only fourteen years, making an early appearance of true Indian rice at least a possibility.

OED earliest date of use: 1814 under Rice but the OED gives a different species, Hydropalmum esculentum, and a later first date of use under Canada rice, supposedly the alternative name

Found described as GROUND, whole

Sources: Tradecards.
References: Masefield et al. (1969).

Indian stick

'Indian stick' is a term found only once in the Dictionary Archive, among the stock of a London retailer with a variety of STICKs and CANEs [Inventories (1671)]. Although the OED does not have Indian stick, it does include 'Indian cane' as an alternative to 'bamboo'. However, that is unlikely to be what was intended here, since the Indian sticks are found together with other canes, which would also have been made of bamboo. It was possibly a LACQUERED stick, a technique that was associated with INDIA.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


A TEXTILE; a durable but fashionable fabric found during the latter part of the eighteenth century. It has not been noted in the authorities on textiles.

Not found in the OED

Found described as for ladies RIDING DRESS Found associated with DIMITY

Sources: Tradecards.

Indigo blue

[indigoe blew; indico blue]

Probably a blueing agent like POWDER BLUE or STONE BLUE made of INDIGO and for use in laundry work to brighten the whiteness of LINEN CLOTH. In the nineteenth century the term was sometimes used for indigotin, the colouring matter found in indigo. It is unlikely to have had this technical meaning when noted in the Dictionary Archive.

Not found in the OED in this sense

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Ink box

[ink-box; inckboxe; inck box]

Presumably a small BOX or container in which to keep INK POWDER, or to carry it on the person. Alternatively, it may have been an alternative name for a SANDBOX. John Houghton included ink boxes among the 'pretty knacks' turned out of CANNEL COAL [Houghton], and other evidence suggests they were made of decorative materials like LATTEN or BONE [Inventories (1661)].

OED earliest date of use: 1640 under INK

Found made of BONE, LATTEN
Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period).


[ynkl; ynckle; inkell; incoll; incle; incl; incklerole; inckle; inckl; inckell; enkell; enckyll]

A cheap TAPE, useful as well as decorative, made of LINEN and later COTTON, on a simple loom, sometimes called an INKLE FRAME. Presumably, when inkle was defined as round (in section) it was intended to be used as LACEs. However, particularly when designated UNWROUGHT INKLE, the term could be applied to WHITE THREAD or, according to Cauldfeild and Saward quoting from Shakespeare's Pericles, Act V, to a kind of CREWEL used for EMBROIDERY. Probably the thread inkle noted once is also in this category. The unit of measure may help to distinguish the two meanings. Inkle as a tape was probably more often measured numerically in the DOZEN or the GROSS, by the PIECE, tied up in a KNOT or wrapped in a PAPER, whereas unwrought inkle may more commonly have been measured by weight, that is by the LB or OZ, like most other thread. However, the distinction is by no means certain, since other tape-like articles were occasionally measured by weight.

The term was replete with cultural overtones. Because the INKLE FRAME was both cheap and simple to construct and easy to use, the weaving of inkle became a stand-by occupation for the poor and intermittently employed in a similar way to NAIL making. As a result 'inkle weaver' became a pejorative term and some of the opprobrium became attached to the inkles themselves.

OED earliest use: 1541

Found used to make APRON strings, COIF strings Found used to make up a SKREEN Found made of COTTON, DIAPER
Found in the shops measured by BUSS, DOZEN, GROSS, KNOT, LB, OUNCE, PARCEL, PIECE, YARD Found rated by the DOZEN pounds, POUND, and in ROLLs (the dozen PIECES, containing 36 YARDs the piece) Found imported from Germany, Holland

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Tradecards.
References: Caulfield & Saward (1885, 1989 ed.), 270.

Ipswich water

A preparation of TOILETRY, but hardly a WATER as generally understood. According to the two recipe noted, its principal ingredients were CASTILE SOAP and ROSE WATER, and various sweetly scented products, all worked together in a MORTAR and then rolled around in the hands [Recipes (Queens)]; [W.M. (1655, facs. 1984)].

Not found in the OED online

Sources: Recipes.
References: W.M. (1655, facs. 1984).

Irish blue

[iresh blew]

A TEXTILE in the form of a LINEN CLOTH dyed BLUE, and presumably from Ireland, which was a noted source of linens, though possibly in a style that was regarded as distinctively IRISH.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).

Irish mantle


A kind of BLANKET or PLAID worn until the seventeenth century by the rustic Irish, often as their only covering. They were also exported to England, but the term has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive after 1660.

OED earliest date of use: c1470

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.
References: Kerridge (1984), 20.

Irish rug

RUG made in IRELAND with the local wool, IRISH WOOL, which was rough and hairy and ideally suited to making coarse, hard-wearing TEXTILEs, particularly a form of PLAINS frizzed into FRIEZE or RUGs, and sometimes called IRISH MANTLE.

Irish rug has been noted in the late sixteenth century, when a fiscal document of 1592 had the comment, 'English rugs- None are made in England, but Irish ruggs of divers sorts, from 10s to (none shipped over) 3li' [Kerridge (1985)]. However, rugs were being made in LANCASHIRE at about the same time using IRISH WOOL, and perhaps these were also designated as Irish rug. As such Irish rug has not been noted in the shops or in the domestic environment, but plenty of rugs have been noted and some were indubitably from Ireland.

OED earliest date of use: 1611

Found described as for BEDs, WHITE
Found in units of PIECE, YARD Found rated by the YARD

Sources: Inventories (early), Rates.
References: Kerridge (1984).

Irish slate

[irish slat]

ALUM - SLATE was formerly used medicinally in the form of a powder. It has been noted occasionally in the Dictionary Archive among retailers' stocks of DRUGS, for example [Inventories (1695)], but was not in Pemberton's Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)].

OED earliest date of use: a1704 under SLATE

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).


[yron; yeron; iyron; iro'; ireon; iiarne; ieyn; eyrone; eyorne; eyarne; eyarene]

The most abundant and versatile of the metals, iron is durable and strong. It is extracted from IRON ORE and IRON STONE, the most common of which in the British Isles is the Argillaceous type, containing alumine and clay [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)]. The extraction of iron from ore involved a heating process to expel impurities and to reduce the iron ore using carbon, found in large quantities in the fuel source. The type of iron produced after further processing depended upon the carbon content: CAST IRON had a carbon content of 1.8-4.5%, STEEL 0.5-1.3%, and WROUGHT IRON even less [Trinder (1992)]. Due to the high carbon content cast iron was hard but inelastic, whilst wrought iron was more malleable but not so hard. Steel had the advantages of being both flexible and hard.

The early modern era marked a distinctive period in the history of iron production. Manufacturing processes developed to such an extent that large quantities of iron and steel could be economically produced to meet the demands of the growing economy of Britain. At the beginning of the period smelting was performed using the so-called 'direct method'. Iron ore was placed in a small FURNACE, called a bloomery, and heated using CHARCOAL. The result of this process was usually pasty lumps of relatively pure iron, made into wrought iron by beating out most of the remaining carbon. The bloomery was rarely able to make iron sufficiently molten to run into casts and hence to make cast iron.

Innovations in iron smelting occurred after the introduction of the blast furnace from the Low Countries in the late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries; first into the Sussex Weald, and in 1560s to Shropshire and the West Midlands. By the close of the century smelting using the 'indirect method' in the blast furnace became well-established. In the blast furnace the greater heat caused the expulsion of moisture, carbon dioxide, sulphur and arsenic from the iron ore, producing ferric oxide. The oxygen in the blast produced large quantities of carbon monoxide when it combined with the carbon in the fuel. Using this method, charcoal, LIME and iron ore were placed in the furnace, into which air was blasted. Lime was used to attract the various impurities that may have been in the fuel and that certainly were in the ore. These impurities bound with the lime to form slag that was separate from the iron. The increase in temperature achieved by the blasts of air ensured that impure iron reached melting point. The molten iron ran from the furnace into sand moulds, comprising a central larger channel and smaller side channels. The cast iron made by this method was named PIG IRON and SOW IRON, depending upon the size of the mould from which it originated.

For a long time charcoal was the only fuel used to smelt iron. As early as 1709 in Coalbrookdale Abraham Darby is known to have used fossil fuels in a blast furnace to make pig iron. He did this by coking the coal to remove some of the impurities, a technique used in Derbyshire to make MALT [Cox (1990)]. Initially they found one coal available locally, known as CLOD COAL, particularly suitable because of its low sulphur content: approximately 0.50% compared with 1-3% for other coals [Hyde (1977)]. The spurious idea that anything other than clod coal was inappropriate, circulated for some time, perhaps according to Darby's design to limit business rivals.

To ensure smooth firing, charcoal furnaces were necessarily large and needed to be supported by a generous supply of wood for charcoal. By comparison coked blast furnaces were smaller with a lower output than charcoal furnaces, but there were usually a number on site. The latter were, however, more adaptable to the vagaries of water supply. During times of water shortage one or two coke furnaces might still function, whereas during the same conditions those iron works with only a charcoal furnace would have to cease operations. Using coked blast furnaces also allowed iron production to continue when maintenance work was performed, as some could remain operational while others were being repaired.

Coke-smelted iron was particularly suitable for casting, because it reached a higher temperature in the furnace and because of its phosphorus content making the iron runnier. In consequence Coalbrookedale retained a virtual monopoly over casting POTs and other HOLLOW WARE casting, even after the patent ran out. Over the next thirty years, awareness increased concerning the different techniques to make castings. Casting was performed with pig iron direct from the blast furnace, for example in the manufacture of pots. Alternatively charcoal-smelted iron was reheated to make BUSHes. Other castings were made with coke-smelted iron that was reheated in an air furnace.

The very characteristics that made coke-smelted iron sutiable for casting, on the other hand, made it uneconomic to convert into wrought iron. During the early modern period, however, the main purpose of making pig iron was to convert it into WROUGHT IRON by heating and hammering at the forge. This removed remaining slag and dross from the iron. Some wrought iron was sent to rolling mills to make PLATEs and then to slitting mills to make BAR IRON or the ROD IRON used for making NAILs. Despite technological developments in the forge in the form of water- and, later, steam-powered hammers, wrought iron made by this method was costly and inefficient. The need to smelt an iron containing little carbon, that did not require much beating and heating afterwards, encouraged many individuals to begin experimenting. It is believed that Abraham Darby II (1711-63) produced a solution in about 1749-50, but it not known what his improvement was. Darby refused to patent his technique, which spread very rapidly. By the end of the century few blast furnaces remained that were fired with charcoal. Henry Cort (1740-1800) provided a solution by 'puddling' iron in a reverberatory furnace. In the reverberatory furnace the fuel and iron ore were in separate compartments, with a chimney to draw the heat from the lit fuel into the compartment with the iron ore. This furnace therefore, prevented the impurities in the fuel from passing into the iron. As the impurities in the iron ore were burnt off the liquid began to solidify because pure iron has a higher melting point (of 1539 C) than impure iron. While the reverberatory furnace was known to iron masters, what Cort demonstrated was that stirring the solidfying iron ('puddling') produced a semi-solid mass for wrought iron for efficiently hammering and rolling.

Iron was used for other purposes. It was found among DYERS GOODS as a mordant: for example, when mixed with prussic acid it formed a dye known as 'Prussian Blue' [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)]. Unlike most other metals, iron is capable of absorption into the human body, and was listed in the Materia Medica. It was used in medicinal preparations because it was believed to strengthen the body generally and blood vessels in particular, and to treat digestive disorders [Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.)].

Iron was also the name given to an instrument, appliance, TOOL, UTENSIL, or particular part of one, made with metal, often with a defining word such as CREASING IRON, wheel-iron, seat-iron, pricking iron, bolstering-iron etc.

In particular it was an implement of iron used when heated to smooth out LINEN, to press down the seams of CLOTH; defined by their shape,structure or some other characteristic such as BOX IRON, FLAT IRON and Italian-iron. In addition, irons of this type were, according to John Houghton, used to warm and smooth HORN to render it flat and smooth.

Simone Clarke


Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Rates, Recipes.
References: Cox (1990), Hyde (1977), Partington (1950), Rees (1819-20, 1972 ed.), Schubert (1958), Scrivenor (1854, 1968 ed.), Trinder (1992).

Iron chain

[yron chaine; iron-chain; iron ditto; iron cheane; chaynes of yron]

Heavy duty CHAIN was normally made of IRON throughout the period, so it would seem unnecessary to specify and describe one. The contexts of the various examples in the Dictionary Archive do not suggest an explanation, like the 'buckett w'th an yron chaine' [Inventories (1620)], the '2 Iron Cheanes in ye Chimny' [Inventories (1639)], or the 'One Jack & Iron Chain' [Inventories (1735)]. The only example, where the distinction is evidently useful, lists the chain togther with another item that would have been made of a different metal; 'one newe Bell', which would have been of BELL METAL, and 'iij olde chaynes of yron' [Inventories (1577)].

'Making iron-chains for mooring ships' was to become an important innovation replacing HEMP cable with CABLE CHAIN [Patents (1634)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1687 under Sink

Found in units of YARD

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents.

Iron gear

[iro' gere]

In the plural the term seems to have been applied to HORSE GEARS made of IRON; that is the pieces of CHAIN attaching the HAME at each side of the COLLAR to the shaft, and likewise the one over the CART SADDLE. In one example the iron gears were listed with HEMP gears, suggesting that rope was used sometimes as an alternative [Inventories (1634)].

In the singular, iron gear was applied in the kitchen to iron work round the GRATE, though in some cases specific items were excluded, as in 'two paire of Racks two dreepinge pannes eighte spitts and all other Iron geare in the kitchine iij li iiijs' [Inventories (1623)]. It seems that GEAR was used with brass very rarely, and with pewter never, although some entries are ambiguous, like 'pewter brass Iron geare' [Inventories (1718)]. More typically each of the three principal metals were treated differently with the PEWTER and the BRASS valued separately from 'Grates and other Iron Gear' [Inventories (1713)]. Although the evidence in the Dictionary Archive is not helpful, it is likely that any IRON POT would also have been listed separately from the iron gear.

In one example only iron gear was applied to the nozzle and other iron parts of BELLOWS before they were fully assembled [Inventories (1702)].

Found described as OLD
Found in units of DOZEN (for BELLOWS)

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Iron hearth

A single entry of 'an Iron Hearth & Doggs' [Inventories (1723)] suggests that in this instance at least a GRATE was intended, and not the 'small round iron hearths, which they carry with them' referred to in an OED quotation dated 1665.

Not found in this sense in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).

Iron horse

In the context of the only example found in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1758)], this was probably an East-Anglian term for a stand on which to place a SMOOTHING IRON [Yaxley (2003)], but it could have had a similar function to a TRIVET or BRANDRETH.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Yaxley (2003).

Iron maid

A MAID in the sense of a stand or support made of IRON. It seems to have been used at the kitchen fire; hence 'Crane and Iron Maid' [Inventories (1759)], and has been noted associated with a TOASTING IRON [Inventories (1765)] and a FRYING PAN [Inventories (1735)].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).

Iron nail

[iron nayle; iron naile]

Most NAILs were of IRON, unless they were for specialist or decorative use, for which BRASS was favoured. Generally they are only found in the Dictionary Archive when it is necessary to distinguish them for BRASS NAILs or COPPER NAILs [Inventories (1679)]; [Inventories (1696)].

OED earliest date of use: 1702

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Iron pin

[iron pinn]

The term could have been, and probably was, applied to almost any pin-shaped object made of IRON of any size. However, it does seem to have had some specific meanings, two of which have been noted in the Dictionary Archive. According to John Houghton, an iron pin was a large piece of IRON, two INCH thick and two FOOT and a half long, and used to remove the hair from HIDEs during the process of tanning [Houghton]. This may have been what the '8 Iron pins' were valued at 8d in all, and found among the possessions of an oil leather dresser [Inventories (1741)]. Two 'cloth workers' have also been noted with iron pins. These apparently formed part of their PRESSes, but were sufficiently important to be listed separately as in the entry, '2 Iron Screws cold presses with a Packing press 2 Iron pins' [Inventories (1720)].

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (late).

Iron screw

[iron screwe]

A heavy industrial SCREW made of IRON intended to exert adjustable pressure. The iron screw was often an essential component of the HOT PRESS or COLD PRESS belonging to a CLOTH worker as in '3 hot presses with Iron screws & plates and Iron cheeks' and '2 cold presses with iron screws' [Inventories (1728)]. The term was also used sometimes to denote a TOBACCO SCREW [Inventories (1669)]. Although normally used to exert downwards pressure, an iron screw could be adapted for raising heavy weights [Patents (1765)].

The term was also applied to ordinary WOOD SCREWS made of iron, although this seems to have been uncommon. It was probably the intended sense in 'Iron Screwes and one fflesh fork 1s' [Inventories (1708)].

OED earliest date of use: 1680

Found described as OLD

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents.