✧♬TwinklingLights♬✧

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Message to Readers

This is a history paper i did in sixth grade, lol!

Indigo

October 13, 2020

FREE WRITING

3
No, not the flight company. I'm talking about the color. Indigo is the sixth color of the spectrum, and it is a symbol of wisdom. It has a rich blueish-purplish tone and is used as a dye for many things such as cloth. It comes from a plant, also called indigo, and has been a worldwide craze throughout history. 
    Indigo agriculture originated in the Indus Valley civilization more than five thousand years ago, where the natives called it "Nila," meaning "deep blue." Then, the greedy Europeans traveled to India and acquired a huge amount of it, realizing that it could be a tremendous success around the globe. They were familiar with the beautiful dye already, but it had been imported to the Europeans in very small amounts, not enough to sell for much money. Now, they knew that, with this many indigo plants, they could sell it and get a ton of money. People were willing to pay a lot for indigo, not only because it was "the best blue they knew" (Finlay, 320), but because it came from an exotic place, India.
    To sell this wonderful plant, the Europeans had to deal with one problem: woad. Woad is a yellow plant that makes (what?) blue dye. It was very popular in the first through the sixteenth century, and the British had figured out a way to transform it into a dye. First, they had to grind the plant leaves into a liquidy pulp. Next, every little molecule of oxygen had to be extracted from the dye. During this process, the dye still remained its yellow color, but, as soon as it hit the air, the yellow dye would become a deep shade of blue. 
    Finally, European merchants of the sixteenth century introduced their new/old dye. But, instead of the joyous reaction and wads of cash that they were expecting, merchants found that people neither wanted nor appreciated the difference of this... indigo. Europeans were just going too insane for the woad. So many countries put down the new blue. Germans called it  "devil's dye" (very catchy, but still very hurtful). In 1609, the French government appointed a death penalty to anyone who used indigo rather than woad.
    In England, woad was "certified as poisonous" (Finlay, 327) and was banned until 1660. Most people didn't pay any attention to that law, though. Support for woad in England was becoming lesser and lesser because the plant wasn't drying correctly. So, the British violated the law from 1630 and onward. The East India Company made sure that the British had their regular supply of the illegal indigo. People found that, while woad was useful for dyeing wool, the indigo produced a much more vibrant tint to cotton, wool, and other materials. Therefore, they concluded that, yes, indigo was better for dyeing cloth. 
    The commercial sales of indigo were, unwillingly, supported by the Puritans. After all, they did need a base dye to make "their dark clothes darker and their white clothes whiter" (Finlay, 328). You see, the indigo helped the clothes not get as sun-faded as they would've without the indigo. By the end of the seventeen hundreds, woad was clearly out, and indigo was in. 
    But there was one major setback that could have destroyed the entire indigo industry. India was slacking on their indigo. They were replacing the indigo with soot and dust, and people weren't buying it anymore. Luckily, the French saved the day when they took the indigo crops over to present-day Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe. These places were ideal because of their perfect climate and the fact that slaves could work on the plantations. 
    By the 1640s, Caribbean indigo had taken over the Indian indigo industry. (Say that three times fast.) Unfortunately, the governor of the East India Company called "the rival French product 'deceitful and counterfeit,'" (Finlay, 330). England took India's side and went to war with the French around 1745, and then... nothing. The French's source of indigo was gone. 
    The English Admiralty frantically searched around for indigo suppliers. Little did they know that the industry would be started up once again by a teenage girl who had lots of family trouble in her life. 
    Eliza Lucas "was born in Antigua, and her father was an officer in the English army" (Finlay, 330). When she was fifteen years old in 1738, she and her family went to live in Charles Town. Eliza called it the "gayest" (Finlay, 330) town in South Carolina ["gay" as in "happy" (I think)]. The family wanted to start farming the three plantations that Eliza's grandfather had left them, but Eliza's father had to go back to Antigua to prepare for a battle with the Spaniards. On top of all of that, Eliza's mother was sick. So, her father had no choice but to go back to Antigua. He put Eliza in charge of the farms. 
    One day, Eliza was opening a letter written from her father when a bunch of yellow seeds came pouring out. This wasn't the first time that Eliza's father had sent her seeds for crops to make money. He'd tried alfalfa; he'd tried ginger; but, this time, both his and Eliza's hopes were set on indigo.
    The first few harvests were highly ineffective because of two things: one, the weather (frost had covered the crop before it had dried) and sabotage. In 1741 Eliza's father had hired a man, Nicholas Cromwell, to help Eliza turn the plants into the dye. However, Cromwell did not want Eliza to succeed in this industry so he "accidentally" spilled lime water into the vat of indigo to destroy the color. He "made a great misery of the process," Eliza quotes. She told her father that Cromwell was a "mere bungler" (Finlay, 332), and he was fired. 
    The next year, Eliza tried again. And after months of hard work and determination... her entire crop got eaten by caterpillars. And dried out by the sun. The next year was worse. It wasn't until 1744 that Eliza had grown her first triumphant crop of indigo. Next, "she gave the seedlings to other plantation owners," (Finlay, 332) so that they could provide the demands for the English. By 1750, England was getting 30,000 kilograms of indigo from the Carolinas imported, and by 1755 the import had grown to almost 500 tons. Eliza's industry had turned out successful. 
    And that's about it! That's the story of how indigo got from India to the United States of America. I want everyone in this class to do me a favor: wherever you are, try to give color a deeper thought and understanding. If we didn't have any color, the world would look very bland as black and white. And think: what colors are most important in your life? 

 
All of this info comes from a book written by Victoria Finlay called "Color".

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  • October 13, 2020 - 11:10am (Now Viewing)

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1 Comment
  • (sk)eyesofocher

    oh I love this! it's written so well:) Welcome to WtW, my friend.


    7 months ago