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Titus Salt

Sir Titus Salt is undoubtedly the founder of the modern alpaca industry. Alpacas had faded into the background of history after the Spanish invasion of South America. Then, in 1834 the Englishman named Titus Salt noticed some bales of alpaca fleece at a Liverpool warehouse. Salt was already involved in the textile industry, owning four textile mills.

Salt experimented with the alpaca fleece and found that it wove an exquisite cloth, one highly suitable for making expensive dresses for the English upper class. With the the manufacture of this alpaca cloth he became one of the richest men in Yorkshire.

Saltaire

Salt and his alpaca played an important role at this stage of the Industrial Revolution.  Conditions for the working class were terrible, and those working in British textile mills were subject to unsafe working conditions and low wages.

Salt had taken over his father's business and in time turned it into the largest employer in Bradford. In 1848 Salt became mayor of Bradford. The smoke and pollution emanating from local mills was a horror to behold, and Salt tried unsuccessfully to get this pollution cleaned up by passing laws requiring the use of the Rodda Smoke Burner - perhaps one of the earliest efforts at environmental legislation.

Other factory owners resisted fiercely, and Salt decided to build an entirely new mill and company town. 

The result was Saltaire, built on the banks of the River Aire in 1850. This new facility provided much better living and working conditions for Salt's employees.  The town still exists today, and is listed as a World Heritage site.

In 1869 Salt was created a baronet by Queen Victoria. He died in 1876. Salt, and his alpacas, played on important role in changing the working conditions of 19th century England. He supported the move to reduce working hours and was the first employer in the Bradford area to introduce the ten hour day. However, Salt held conservative views on some issues. He refused, for instance, permission for his workers to join trade unions.

Salt has been called "The Great Paternalist". A much-loved individual, it is said 100,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried at Saltaire Congregational Church.

 
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"His dress was simple, consisting of a pair of trowsers, and a shirt of the cotton cloth of the country, of a dark blue colour; a poncho of alpaca wool covered his shoulders, while a sash was fastened round his waist, and his feet were protected by sandals, fastened on by leather thongs. He threw himself on the ground before my father, who went to meet him, and taking his hand, he looked up imploringly in his face...."

W.H.G. Kingston
Manco, the Peruvian Chief - An Englishman's Adventures in the Country of the Incas
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