J.D Carr's anti-Corn Law waistcoat
Woven into the fibres of this waistcoat is a story that provides us with an insight into a crucial time in Britain’s history. It was made for J.D. Carr, founder of the Carlisle firm, Carr’s biscuits, around 1840. The waistcoat represents Carr’s political views through its design symbolism. Carr campaigned for free trade and the repeal of the Corn Laws. To reflect this it is printed with an intricate design featuring ears of wheat and tiny slogans saying 'free'.
Carr took a keen interest in a wide range of social issues, and one of the causes closest to his heart was the campaign against the Corn Laws. This legislation was introduced at the end of the Napoleonic Wars to protect the price of British-grown wheat. While this pleased domestic producers, the laws caused widespread unrest.
The result was a stalemate that, arguably, brought Britain to the brink of revolution before more moderate political reform broke aristocratic control of Parliament and led to the laws being repealed in 1846.
J.D. Carr wore the waistcoat at Anti-Corn League public meetings. When repeal was passed by Parliament, Carr provided his factory workers with a free celebratory cup of tea.
- The Corn Laws, 1689-1800s, introduced tarrifs and taxes on imported grain to raise the prices and encourage people to buy British crops.
- This was unpopular in urban areas, with high prices on food, and food shortages when it was too expensive to buy extra food from abroad. The anti-corn law movement involved many industrial leaders, and sought to gain support from the public to revoke these laws. This waistcoat sends a loud political message about this, with the decorated corn ears decorated all over the fabric.
- The emergence of new industrial leaders caused political conflict, since they were largely politically unrepresented compared to the traditional land owner classes.