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.
Chintz (Hindoo Chhint, spotted). Cotton cloth printed with flowers or other patterns of bright colors, and finished with a glaze. The only difference between Chintz and Cretonne consists in the glazing of the former, which is effected by calendering. Chintz is also known under the name of furniture print, from its extensive use in covering furniture. About 1850 glazed chintz was greatly used for furniture, and some of the patterns which have survived are quite surprisingly bad. For this reason, and the fact that chair covers were gone out of fashion, the majority of the world got tired of Chintzes, when some enterprising manufacturer saw the beauty which might lie in a fabric called Cretonne - which is simply a Chintz without a glaze. It is a question whether Chintz is ever either suitable or salable in a town. Its extreme daintiness seems as out of place in the grime and grind of a city as the innocent chat of a country cousin seems almost like a reproach to the short-haired advocate of "women's rights." But the soft tints and darker shades of Cretonne are always harmonious, and it is asserted by artists there is no fabric with the exception of Brocade which looks so well for upholstery purposes. Chintzes are all block-printed, the principal dyes being madder, weld and indigo.
The earliest mention of cotton-printing occurs in Pliny, in the first century, A. D., who records his surprise at seeing the Egyptians exercise this wonderful method of dyeing, by which the white cloth was stained in various places, not with dye stuffs, but with substances which had the property of absorbing colors. Herodotus mentions a Scythian tribe who stained their garments with the figures of animals by means of the leaves of a tree bruised with water, "which would not wash out, but lasted as long as the cloth." The Egyptians probably learned the art from India, for there was communication between the two countries before the first century, the time of Pliny. The India Chintzes were in much request in Europe before the art of making them had been introduced and simplified there; most of them were made by very tedious processes, a great part of the pattern being painted by hand. The parts intended to be white were covered with wax before the material was thrown into the dye-vat, and the process of afterwards removing the wax occupied considerable time and no small amount of patience. Small quantities of these goods were at intervals shipped to England and Holland as early as the 12th century, and there seems to be little doubt that an attempt was made in Europe in the direction of printing patterns on cotton as early as 1634. The introduction of cotton printing into Europe is mainly due to the Dutch, the Dutch East India Company having taken the India Chintzes to Holland before they were heard of in England. Flemish emigrants imported the art into England about 1676, and later other works sprang up to supply the London shops with Chintzes, their import from India having been prohibited by Parliament in 1700. This infringement of the rights of consumers having been received with equanimity. Parliament next proceeded to pass a law prohibiting the wearing of all printed cottons - a law which actually endured in force for 16 years and nipped the rising industry in the bud. In 1736 this unjust law was repealed, but the cotton-printer was handicapped by having to pay a duty of 6 pence on every square yard of Chintz he turned out. Later on this duty was decreased to 3 pence, but it was not until 1831 that it was repealed altogether. The passage of these obnoxious laws was chiefly due to the extreme jealously of the silk and woolen weavers - a feeling which reached its climax in the London riots when the silk weavers paraded the city and tore the calico gowns off every woman they met. Notwithstanding such unfavorable beginning, the cotton-printing industry gradually triumphed, until to-day calico goods are part of the national need and an immense addition to the national wealth. [See Calico, Block-Printing, Cotton, Cretonne]