American Cloth

July 16, 2011

A thing I neglected to add to the end of my post on The Silver Dress:

I found myself wondering, as I read The Silver Dress, what “American cloth” might be. And apparently I wasn’t the only one, as you can see from this 1913 inquiry in The New York Times. But these days, we have the internet, so I was able to find an answer here, from an 1892 Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods.


  1. I remember looking up “American cloth” a while back and then promptly forgot about it. Maybe now it will stick with me.

    Another term from the late 1800s that I’ve run across is “stuff.” From the way it was used I was pretty sure they didn’t mean “whatever” like we do, so I looked it up and found it meant a cheap woolen fabric. I’m always interested in the old fabric terms because I used to work in a fabric store.

    • Do you remember in what book you came across the term?

      • Of course not! But by googling inurl:ww.gutenberg.org “american cloth” I came up with Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson as the most likely suspect. I’m pretty sure I read that within the last year.

  2. This talk of archaic fabrics reminds me of a passage from “Vacation With the Tucker Twins” (Nell Speed, 1916):
    “The first person I beheld on entering the ballroom was no other than Cousin Park Garnett, sitting very stiff and straight in a tight bombazine basque, at least, I fancy it must have been bombazine—not that I know what bombazine is; but bombazine basque sounds just like Cousin Park looked.”

    Even in 1916, the fabric thing was confusing!

    • That’s excellent! I feel like I’m always looking up fabrics, but most of the time I forget them right away. I always remember taffeta, but I pretty consistently forget lisle.

  3. Ran into American Cloth in Lark Rise to Candleford, too.

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