Friday, December 19, 2014

What the Well-Dressed Woman Was Wearing-- Part 3: The Color Purple

Color was very important to mid-19th century ladies.  Chemists in Germany and France were busy developing new dyes, all of which were made from natural fibers.  And, some of those colors from 150 years ago were quite bright but have faded with the passage of time.

Royalty and the very rich were the ones who got to wear purple clothes as they were made from mollusk shells and were quite expensive.  In 1856, a less expensive purple dye was discovered by William Henry Perkin, quite by accident.

At age 18, he was challenged by his professor to synthesize quinine.  Perkin oxidized aniline using potassium dichromate which yielded a black solid.  Apparently a disaster, but when Perkin cleaned the flask with alcohol, he noticed portions of his solution had turned purple.

--Old Purple Secesh

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