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.
Mourning. The custom of showing grief by outward signs is universal. The general form in civilized countries consists of wearing garments of colors which vary widely. In the United States and Europe the ordinary color for mourning is black; though white is mixed with black for slight mourning, and also occasionally employed at the death of children and maidens. In China, white is invariably the color adopted for mourning; in Turkey, blue or violet; in Egypt, yellow; in Ethiopia, brown. Persia adopts pale brown; Burmah, yellow; Tartary, deep blue; Asia-Minor, sky blue. The Spartan and Roman ladies mourned in white; and the same color prevailed formerly in Castile on the death of their princes. Kings and cardinals mourn in purple. Each people have their reasons for the particular color which they affect: white is supposed to denote purity; yellow that death is the end of human hopes - in reference to leaves when they fall, and flowers when they fade, which become yellow. Brown denotes the earth, whither the dead return. Black, the privations of life, as being the the privation of light. Blue expresses the happiness which it is hoped the deceased will enjoy in the land beyond the skies; and purple or violet, sorrow on the one side and hope on the other, as being a mixture of black and blue. [See Color]