The islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra have woven a majestic cloth the world knows simply as Harris Tweed. Lady Dunmore, widow of the landowner of Harris, the Earl of Dunmore, chose to have their clan tartan replicated by Harris weavers in tweed in 1846. The results proved so successful that Lady Dunmore began to devote much time and effort to marketing the tweed to her wealthy friends further afield and as a result of her enthusiastic work, sales and trade of the island cloth were soon established with merchants across the country.
A special meeting was held in Stornoway in 1906 to discuss the introduction of a system whereby the tweed was inspected and, if passed, given a certifying stamp which would give confidence to the trade and public. A company was formed under the title The Harris Tweed Association Limited to ensure the grant of a new trademark and an application was filed to register the well-known Harris Tweed Orb and Maltese Cross with the words Harris Tweed underneath. This Certification Mark was granted in 1909, registered in 1910 and stamping began in 1911.
1934 saw the alteration in the Trademark Definition allowing the use of island millspun yarn in addition to handspun, and enabled the industry to make a huge leap in production. The stamped yardage increased tenfold and continued to increase till the peak figure of 7.6 million yards was reached in 1966.
In the early 1990s the industry set out to transform and modernise itself by producing a new double width loom, re-training weavers, introducing new, tougher quality standards and marketing a new wider, softer, lighter tweed. This new outlook was further consolidated when the Harris Tweed Authority took over from the Harris Tweed Association in 1993 by Act of Parliament. Thus the definition of Harris Tweed became statutory and forever tied the cloth to the Islands.
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