This little notebook kept by Titus Salt between 1834 and 1837 documents the revolutionary wool manufacturing processes he discovered: they made his fortune. Salt later built the remarkable industrial village, Saltaire.
The Day Book was described by Jack Reynolds in The Great Paternalist (1983) as “a book in which [Salt] kept a personal note of special transactions and experiments”. The most significant entries are those which relate to Salt’s work on alpaca; according to Reynolds the Day Book is the only documentary evidence of this work. For example: 27 June 1835 Salt recorded 1 bag of Peruvian wool; October 1836 refers to 2 packs of Alpaca 4s black and broken. Reynolds suggested that Salt’s later signature on a page referring to the 1835 purchase shows he treasured this particular piece of work. Not surprisingly, as it was to be the foundation of his wealth and influence.
Alpaca wool had been imported from Peru since the beginning of the century. A lustrous long-fibred wool with soft, elastic qualities, it had potential, but no other entrepeneur had worked out how to make cost-effective use of it. Salt and his assistants adapted machinery to spin an even thread, and used alpaca weft with cotton or silk warps. The resulting cloth had the sheen of silk, but was cheaper and longer-lasting. Alpaca and mohair cloths became immensely popular, a major part of Bradford’s textile industry.
As you can see in the image above, The Day Book was given a new spine and other conservation treatment recently, so it should survive for many years to come. Find out more about the Day Book on its web page.
Salt built Saltaire between 1850 and 1875. It includes mills, public buildings and houses for the workers, built to a high standard on a regular plan, and has survived remarkably intact to the present day. Saltaire is easily reached by rail from Bradford or Leeds, and offers a fascinating day out, with art galleries at Salt’s Mill, interesting shops and eateries to enjoy. Unesco recognised its importance in 2001, listing it as a world heritage site.