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Linen Goods

In 1721 a statute was passed imposing a penalty of 5 upon the wearer, and 20 upon the seller of, a piece of calico. Fifteen years later this statute was so far modified that calicoes manufactured in Great Britain were allowed, “provided the warp thereof was entirely of linen yarn.” In 1774 a statute was passed allowing printed cotton goods to be used on the payment of threepence a yard duty; in 1806 the duty was raised to threepence halfpenny. This was done to prevent the use of calicoes from interfering with the demand for linen and woollen stuffs. The law for burying in woollen was of a similar character. The following extracts from a London news-letter, dated August 2nd, 1768, are curious. [Note—chintz is simply printed calico. ]

“Yesterday three tradesmen's wives of this city were convicted before the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor for wearing chintz gowns on Sunday last, and each of them was fined 5. These make eighty who have been convicted of the above offence within twelve months past ... There were several ladies in St. James's Park on the same day with chintz gowns on, but the persons who gave informas of the above three were not able to discover their names or places of abode. ... Yesterday a waggon loaded with 2,000 worth of chintz was seized at Dartford in Kent by some custom-house officers. Two post-chaises loaded with the same commodity got off with their goods by swiftness of driving.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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