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The Fabricated World

Political Life

Commemorative cloth Zoomify

Producing images of famous or celebrated people on cloth is one way textiles interact with and express a culture’s politics. In realistic portraits, or in abstract symbols, these great men and women are portrayed on garments such as African commemorative cloth, on accessories such as handkerchiefs or towels, and even on Afghan war rugs.

About the Object

Object name: Commemorative cloth
Place made: England
Date made: 1898
Dimensions: 49 x 47 cm
Materials & Techniques: Linen, woven and roller-printed
Credit line: Gift of Carlo Toccalino
ID: T94.0013

Handkerchiefs such as this one were produced in Europe between the 18th and 20th centuries to honour specific people and commemorate significant events. The vignettes placed around the portrait on this handkerchief chronicle the life of William Gladstone, a 19th century prime minister of the United Kingdom.

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Audio Clip

The Gladstone Hotel and the Gladstone Bag

Listen to Christina Zeidler, the owner of the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Canada speak about her hotel’s connection to William Gladstone.

Credit: Audio Produced by TMC

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Related Image

Gladstone Hotel

The Gladstone Hotel and the Gladstone Bag

Image title: Gladstone Hotel
Credit: Image Courtesy of Jeff Louie

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Transcript

So, the Gladstone Hotel was originally built in 1889 by Suzanna Robinson. And she and her husband had made – laid the plans for the hotel. Unfortunately he died while it was being built, um, and she worked with the architect to complete it. And she ended up moving in with her thirteen children and running it as a place for 57 guests. So right now we have…There is 57 seven rooms in the hotel. And we’re just not sure where she lived with her thirteen children! Ha ha! The hotel was named after the current British Prime Minister, William Gladstone. It was really…The hotel was really named after the street, and the street was named after the prime minister. Uh, I started to work on the hotel in 2003. It had been very neglected and slum-landlorded for about 40 years. So, what I have been trying to do is do a sensitive revitalization of the building. Uh, the Gladstone Bag is our online newsletter. A Gladstone bag is an actual style of travelling bag, and the bag was made originally for the Prime Minister, William Gladstone. He had, I guess, a reputation, or, uh, was well known for how much he travelled. And I guess, you know, somebody made this either in his honour or for him personally, but it became a very popular travelling style. And people often recognize it. It’s a sort of small leather travelling bag.

Artifact Narrative

Commemorative Cloths

Textiles have long been used to commemorate famous people or to celebrate special events. Many of these commemorative cloths were produced in Africa over the last century. This cloth shows J.J. Rawlings, a president of the West African nation of Ghana in the 20th century. Like most commemorative cloths this one features text as well as images. In some contexts, the text is given as much emphasis in the design as the image. In Europe and North America today, the once popular handkerchief has all but disappeared and the role of commemorative cloth has been assumed by headscarves or tea towels.

Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

Place made: Ghana, West Africa
Date made: c.1982
Dimensions: 115 x 89.5 cm
Materials & Techniques: Cotton, woven and roller-printed
Credits: Gift of Barbara Barde
ID: T01X0015

Artifact Narrative

Textiles in the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution – which began in Europe during the 18th century – accelerated during the 19th century. Textiles were a prime mover of the Industrial Revolution. Inventions such as the spinning jenny transformed the way cloth was produced, shifting it from a family-based occupation into factory mass production. Mechanizing the production of cotton was, in large part, a defence tactic to compete against the cheaper imports from India. By the mid-19th century, large plantations (worked by African slaves) fed the factories the raw materials required to fill a growing demand for textiles by the emerging middle class in Europe and North America.

Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

Place made: England
Date made: c.1850
Dimensions: 72 x 75 cm
Materials & Techniques: Cotton, roller-printedCredit line: Gift of Carlo Toccalino
Credits: Gift of Carlo Toccalino
ID: T94.0012b

Collection Connections

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Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

ID*: T01X0010

Commemorative cloth

Commemorative cloth

ID*: T94.0012a

Rug

Rug

ID*: T2008.1.66