This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Aniline. One of the very numerous products of the distillation of coal tar. The readiness with which aniline, in certain of its reactions, produced very brilliant colors was known to chemists since 1826. Up to the year 1858, however it possessed nothing beyond a scientific interest, and had it not been for the untiring industry of Mr. W. H. Perkin, dyers would probably have gone on in the good old way of dyeing fabrics with the extracts of plants and tree-bark until the end of time. In 1858 Mr. Perkin obtained a patent for the production of a dye stuff derived from aniline which soon became well-known as mauve, or "Perkin's purple," as well as by various other names. The discovery of Mr. Perkin formed the turning point in the history of aniline, and was indeed the beginning of a great revolution in the arts and manufactures connected with the dyeing of textile fabrics. The manufacture of aniline dyes was first begun in France. It immediately spread to all industrial centres, and became one of the most eagerly investigated of all commercial undertakings. A rapid succession of patents were applied for and obtained; new processes and combinations were continually being projected, and a great variety of colors were tried, with more or less success, as commercial substances. The activity of scientific re-rearch kept pace with the energy of manufacturing enterprise, resulting in a rapid improvement of processes, decrease in the cost of manufacture, and a great increase in the beauty and tinctorial effect of the dyes produced. At the present time every color, and all tints and shades of colors, are produced from aniline, which in turn is derived primarily from coal-tar and, while the processes employed and the combinations formed are very numerous, the names under which the dye-stuffs are sold must be said to be endless. All shades and sorts of aniline dyes communicate a permanent color to wool and silk, but only produce on vegetable fibres - cotton, jute, linen, etc. - a fugitive, easily-washed-out stain. But in order to produce the best results with silk and wool, dyers need good soft water, so that every fibre will be made to absorb all the color possible, in order to make them indellible. With hard water this can not be accomplished, and in some places dyers have been obliged to sink artesian wells at a heavy outlay. About the time of the French-Austrian war, in 1859, a coal-tar dye was introduced into commerce which became known as aniline red, or magenta, from the battle fought on the day of its invention. Aniline colors are employed in the industrial arts for numerous other purposes besides their great use as dyeing materials. Violet ink, and other fancy colored inks, are prepared from them. They are used by paper manufacturers for tinting pulps, and for the superficial staining of finished paper. They are likewise used in the printing of wall papers, in the preparation ot lithographic inks, and to some extent for water colors. They are largely employed as coloring materials in perfumery, fancy soaps and cosmetics, besides having many other.minor applications. Concerning these dyes, Dr. Hofmann, an Englishman, to whom the industry is much indebted, wrote, in 1862, while it was yet in its infancy, "Instead of disbursing her annual millions for these substances, England will, beyond question, at no distant day become herself the greatest color-producing country in the world; nay, by the very strangest of revolutions, she may ere long send her coal derived blues to indigo-growing India; her distilled crimson to cochineal-producing Mexico, and her fossil substitutes for quercitron and safflower to China, Japan and other countries whence the articles are now derived." It is scarcely needful to say that these bold anticipations made thirty years ago have already been fully realized.