Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
In the nineteenth century, cassimere was one of the most produced woolen fabrics in American mills. Cassimere appears in nineteenth century texts, as in George Cole’s Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods, first published in 1890. Cole describes cassimere as “the general term applied to that class of allwool cloths used for men’s clothing, woven either plain or twilled, coarse or fine of “woolen” yarn.” Cassimere is much in evidence in census reports of wool manufacture from 1837 to the early 1900s. It appears early in the twentieth century in the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers Buyers guide of 1905-06 under “Woolen goods” (after whistles, wigs, and witch hazel) and the Register lists at least 101 mills making cassimere at that time. But If you look for cassimere in the indexes of later fabric reference books, you will probably not find it, or if you do, as in the 1967 Dan River Mills Dictionary, it is defined as worsted suiting. Does this mean that it existed in the nineteenth century but is now gone? No, but it is hiding in plain sight today, mostly as a humble woolen twill. A simple draft was published in 1817 in Bronson’s Domestic Manufacturer’s Assistant, with later textile designers developing infinite variations. These included backed casssimeres, double cassimeres, diamond cassimere, Harris’s “double and twist” cassimere (using plied yarn in the warp), requiring anywhere from eight to thirty-two shafts. Fancy cassimere also included color effects such as pinwheel, houndstooth, and log cabin. Because it was not napped, the weave structure and color patterning showed clearly. Fashion moved on, and cassimere was eventually replaced by worsted and eventually synthetic fabrics. However, decades of inventiveness and the resulting trove of cassimere design ideas are still used by contemporary designers.