"So... Carl Sandburg, Louis Untermeyer,...James Oppenheim,... Conrad Aiken, I place your names here so that you may live if only as names, sinuous, mauve-colored names, in the Juvenalia of my collected editions."
-Amory in This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 - 1940)

In 1856, William Henry Perkin, an 18-year-old English chemist, attempted to synthesize antimalarial quinine from coal tar, a by-product of gas manufacture. Instead of quinine, his experiment yielded an inky dark residue. Intrigued, Perkin purified the substance into a light purple liquid. Captivated with the color, Perkin, who was also an amateur painter, dipped a silk swatch into the liquid and the cloth turned an arresting, permanent and uniform1 lilac color. Serendipitously, Perkin discovered the first synthetic chemical and aniline dye and called it mauveine, later known as mauve, aniline purple, or mauvine. Perkin derived the term mauveine from mauve, the French word for the mallow plant which blooms flowers of a pinkish-purplish hue.

The color was an immediate success partly due to Empress Eugénie of France whose fondness for the shade, which she claimed matched her eyes, set off a "mauve mania" in mid-19th century Europe. Mauveine along with a rainbow of other permanent dyes was produced by Perkin's own factory, establishing the aniline dye industry in England. Before Perkin's success, England lagged behind most of Europe in scientific accomplishments and had distrustful relations between industry and research. Perkin's discovery revolutionized the worlds of dye production and fashion and impacted the venue of chemistry by shifting it from a field of intellectual scientific research to a field of commercial potential.

1Before Perkin's discovery, dyes and paints were colored by natural sources such as mollusks, roots, and leaves. These colors were inconsistent, unpredictable in strength, and washed or faded out.

     Simon Garfield. Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World. W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.
     "Perkin, Sir William Henry". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. 2001.

Mauve (?), n. [F., mallow, L. malva. So named from the similarity of the color to that of the petals of common mallow, Malva sylvestris. See Mallow.]

A color of a delicate purple, violet, or lilac.

Mauve aniline Chem., a dyestuff produced artificially by the oxidation of commercial aniline, and the first discovered of the so-called coal-tar, or aniline, dyes. It consists of the sulphate of mauveine, and is a dark brown or bronze amorphous powder, which dissolves to a beatiful purple color. Called also aniline purple, violine, etc.

© Webster 1913.

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