Colonialism and the expansion of empires

Printing block, 'Slave' trademark

Made for Stavert, Zigomala & Company, Manchester, early 1900s
Copper alloy and pear wood

Object number 2002.36.32
Given by Roger Cooper

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Printing block, 'Slave' trademark

Stavert, Zigomala & Company, established in about 1837, was a Manchester-based textile merchant-converter, buying cloth straight from the loom and arranging for it to be printed and finished before selling it. It traded mainly in South and Central America, with trading offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Havana, Cuba. The firm traded in cotton piece goods and was known as a high-quality brand. The business suffered, however, as a result of the declining Lancashire cotton industry and never recovered after the Second World War. It ceased trading in cotton in the 1960s, although the name survives as an investment holding company.

The company was legally required to mark its textile products with a clear brand and identifying marks, particularly important as British cottons were regarded as the finest available. This trademark printing block features the image of a man of African descent, possibly an enslaved agricultural worker from the Caribbean or South America.

Blocks were made from pear wood, a dense and durable material able to withstand repeated use. The design was pencilled onto the block and a grooved outline made with a scalpel. Ribbon strips were cut from a sheet of copper alloy and one edge was sharpened. The sharp edge was placed in the groove and hammered into position to form the design. Most blocks were made in Manchester, but some in the museum’s collection reflect the company’s origins in Glasgow and Bradford.

This information was provided by curators from the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI).