[Natural Indigo.] Lengthy correspondence of ten letters from Sir Lewis J. E Hay, ‘Retired Behar Indigo planter’ to G. K. Menzies, Secretary, Royal Society of Arts.

Sir Lewis J. E. Hay [Sir Lewis John Erroll Hay] (1866-1923) of Park, indigo planter in Behar, India [G. K. Menzies, Secretary, Royal Society of Arts]
Publication details: 
One letter from 1914, the other nine from 1915. Each on his letterhead, 42 Frederick Street, Victoria Chambers, Edinburgh.
SKU: 25035

In one of the present letters Hay signs himself as ‘Retired Behar Indigo planter’, and the material provides an knowledgeable commentry on the colonial textiles industry at the beginning of the First World War. Some of the material was printed in the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts. The recipient George Kenneth Menzies (1869-1954) was Secretary to the Royal Society of Arts between 1917 and 1935. A total of 21pp, 4to. Each bears the stamp of the RSA, some with manuscript docketting. Three of the letters appear to be incomplete: those of 4 and 9 January 1915 consists of an unsigned first page only, and that of 5 January 1915 is paginated to 7, but lacks p.6. Each of the eight letters with a final page is signed ‘Lewis J. E. Hay.’ The condition of the material is good, on lightly aged paper, some items with pin holes from the attachment of pages. The first two letters, 18 December 1914 and 4 and 9 January 1915, concern ‘Dr. F. Mollvo Perkin’s Lecture’, copies of which Hay requests, in order to send them ‘to my friends who are interested in the Indian Indigo industry’. In the second letter he writes: ‘As a Planter I well know that many valuable lectures have been given and discussions have taken place at the Royal Society on Indigo and its Competitors which we planters in India never even heard of though we were vitally interested in the matter!’ He would like to ‘guard against this happening on this occasion’, as there seems to him to be ‘some chance of reviving our Industry provided Dr. F. Molvo Perkin’s most sound advice is taken.’ The incomplete letter of 5 January 1915 (six pages of seven) is headed ‘Natural Indigo’, and consists of ‘some comments on the, generally speaking, very accurate description given by the Author of the manufacture of the above dye as practised in Behar’. Topics touched on include ‘the colour of the steeped liquor’, indoxyl, ‘the Dutch planters process’, ‘known differences in dyeing strength’, ‘vitamines’, ‘the Chinese method of extracting Indigo’. He ends with a warning of the need to ‘hold the fort against a German monopoly’: ‘our home manufacturers [...] will assuredly suffer, should Germany reach her goal, a monopoly of the dye-stuffs of the World’. In another letter of the same date he responds positively to Menzies telegram proposal to ‘publish bulk of your letter in Society of Arts Journal’. Incomplete letter of 9 January 1915 (first page only) contains comments on ‘Chinese Alkaline Extraction Vat’. A three-page letter of 11 January 1915 is signed ‘Lewis J. E. Hay / Retired Behar Indigo planter.’ It discusses the ‘Alkaline method of Extraction’. In the following four-page letter, 14 January 1915, Hay seeks to ‘sum up my conclusions on the existing Behar process and give my suggestions briefly for a possible alternative one’. A two-page letter, 18 January 1915, discusses the relative merits of ‘Natural Dye’ and ‘Synthetic’. A postscript reads: ‘It would be helpful if Dr. Perkin, Professor Armstrong & other scientists could be induced to give their views for alternative processes. If you thought of publishing my letter of 14th. inst., perhaps Dr. Perkins would very kindly write a note for publication at the same time. / L H.’ The final letter, 8 February 1915 concerns a completely different subject, being a covering letter for a paper ‘Re Possible Origin of Malignant Diseases’: ‘I don’t know if my Article is suitable for publication, but it may prove of interest to investigators engaged in Cancer Research - also the causes of some forms of Insanity.’