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Thesis (M.S.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1971. Department of Home Economics


Copyright 1965, the author. Used by permission.


There is no standard technique for the analysis of dyes on historic textiles. After reviewing all available techniques for analysis of dyes, a technique of identification by thin-layer chromatography was derived that could be used in a museum laboratory.

This technique was used with moderate success on textiles recovered from a 1965 Missouri river boat, the “Bertrand.” Major problems were not with the technique itself but with the known dyeings—too few were available and some were not detectable after the identifications had been completed. The procedure followed in this technique was: clean the textiles thoroughly in a neutral soap wash then scour in carbon tetrachloride, ethanol and water; dry; extract the dyestuffs from the textile successfully with hydrochloric acid, ethanol, and water; dry; extract the dyestuffs from the textile successfully with hydrochloric acid, ethanol, carbon tetrachloride and glacial acetic acid; concentrate the extractions; spot the extracts onto precoated polyamide sheets with fluorescent indicator; develop in a solvent system of ethanol, water, and formic acid 85:10:10 (V:V:V) after development, examine the developed chromatographs of the known and unknown dyeings under longwave ultraviolet light; identifications are based on a comparison of Rf values and fluorescence of the developed spots.

Revisions suggested for the technique were to obtain a more complete library of known dyeings; combine the hydrochloric acid and the ethanol extracts; employ more than one absorbent and solvent system; and utilize certain sprays as an aid in the detection of the spots after development. The question is raised and briefly examined as to when a dye analysis that identifies the specific dyestuff on a textile would be desirable and when other tests might be more appropriate. The final conclusion was that this technique could be used in a museum laboratory, but the problems of colorant identification might be more satisfactorily solved either by laboratories associated with the commercial dye houses or in a yet-to-be established central laboratory for museum work of this nature.

Advisor: Patricia Sailor