Cashmere Shawls. [Also called India shawls, and sometimes erroneously termed camels' hair shawls] These wonderfully wrought and ancient fabrics date back 4,000 years. The shawl cloth of Babylon, the silky textures of Ruth, the mantles of Thamar, and the long pieces of cloth worn by biblical characters were none other than shawls of eastern manufacture. When these Asiatic veils or mantles took the form of the modern shawls is not precisely known, but it seems from certain French records that they were introduced into Europe about 1739 by the wives and daughters of the French ambassadors to India. The first manufacture of shawls is believed to have originated in the valley of Cashmere, in the northwest of India. Though not so flourishing as it once was, the manufacture is still prosecuted in this province to a very considerable extent. The genuine cashmere shawls are the very best made, possessing unequalled fineness, delicacy and warmth, and characterized by great elaboration and minute detail of design, and by the glowing harmony, brilliance, depth and enduring qualities of the colors. These excellences are due to the raw material, which consists of the very fine, soft and flossy under wool of the cashmere goat, and to the unwearying patience and inherited skill of the Oriental weavers. A single goat does not yield more than three ounces, and the fleece of ten goats are requisite for the manufacture of a shawl a yard and a half square. These goats which produce the finest down in the world are reared upon the cold, dry table-land of Thibet, from 14,000 to 16,000 feet above the level of the sea. The goat thrives sufficiently well in many other climates and countries, but in the sultry plains of Hindostan it has hardly more hair than a greyhound, and though in higher latitudes the hair is more abundant, it is for the most part shaggy and coarse. It is only in the intensely cold and dry climate of Thibet that it yields the peculiarly soft downy wool that constitutes the material of the cashmere shawl. The wool is sorted with patient care by hand, and spun into a fine thread, a work of so much delicacy, owing to the shortness of the fibre, that a pound of undyed thread is valued at $12.15. The shawls are woven in rudely constructed looms, a fine one often occupying the labor of three or four men a whole year in weaving; and it is to this slow and laborious process that their high prices are due. It is said that although $3,500 has been known to be paid for a single shawl, that but few of the finest ever leave India. The commonest qualities range in price as low as $50, and consumes from sixteen to twenty weeks in making. A first-rate shawl weighing about seven pounds may cost at the place of its production $1,500, made up thus: material $150, labor $750, duty $350, miscellaneous expenses and profits $250. There are several classes of these fabrics, principal among them being those woven all in one piece, either solid white or black or dyed of various colors; the class comprising embroidered shawls in which over a plain ground is worked by needle a minute and elaborate pattern; another. class are those that are made in small strips or squares and sewn together with such precision and neatness that it is simply impossible from either side for the seam to be detected. The " cone " pattern, with its flowing curves and minute cornucopia of flowers, is characteristic of this latter class. Probably the finest specimen ever produced represents a map of the city of Shrinegar, the capital of Cashmere; the streets and houses, gardens and temples, with the people walking about among them, and the boats on the deep blue river being seen as plainly as in a finished photograph. Besides shawls, an immense variety of articles are made in Cashmere of shawl stuff.

In 1822 pure Cashmere goats were introduced into France, and since have been unremittingly improved by cross-breeding until a fairly satisfactory result in the union of the most essential qualities of the wool-abundance, luster and softness - has been reached. By the aid of the draw loom and Jacquard loom French manufacturers have succeeded in weaving Cashmere shawls very similar to the Oriental in external aspect. To produce shawls altogether identical on both sides was a more difficult task. In both modes of manufacture, the piece is mounted by drawing the warp through the harness and ground treadles. The weaving of imitation shawls is executed as usual by as many shuttles as there are colors in the pattern, which are thrown across the warp in the order indicated by the design. The greater number of these weft yarns being introduced only at intervals into the web, many remain floating loose at the back of the piece, and are cut afterward without affecting in the least the quality of the texture. The deception would be very complete if the reverse of the shawl did not show the cut ends. It is said that the shawl merchants of India greatly admire the ingenuity of the French weavers in imitating Cashmere shawls, but condemn them on account of their harshness. The latter is largely due to the manner of washing the yarn. In Cashmere soft water is used in a solution of rice starch, which greatly adds to the peculiar softness and gloss of the yarn. Amritzer is now the principal entrepot of the shawl trade between India and Europe. Imitations of the real Cash-mere shawls made at Nimes and Lyons, France, are called "Broche," while those made at Paisley, Scotland, are known as "Paisley shawls."

The common black shawls made of twilled Cashmere dress fabric, and fringed, usually worn by elderly women, bear no relation to the above described products of India. These latter are known as "square," "long," and "double." The "squares" range in size from 56x56, 60x60, up to 80x80; the "long" from 56x60, 60x64, up to 84 inches in length, while the "double" are twice the size of the "long" shawls.