News

Keeping you up to date with everything that is happening at the ICA

Discounted ticket prices at Las Vegas 2022 for ICA Members Find out more >

Our forgotten cotton archive

As we get ready to move to our new office space in Liverpool City Centre, our 213-year-old record collection has now been officially catalogued and will be re-housed at the Liverpool Record Office to form one of the cotton industry’s most historic and complete archives.

Described by Dr Tony Webster, Head of History at Liverpool John Moores University, as “one of the most valuable business resources in the city”, the collection contains the history of the evolution of the cotton industry – not just in Liverpool, but also in the north west of England.
Our history dates as far back as the mid-1700s when the first-ever cotton auction in Liverpool was recorded. The ICA was officially formed in 1841 and has been at the forefront of the city’s business networks for over 170 years. With our head office still based in Liverpool, we will be moving to new office premises in Walker House in Exchange Flags later this month.
Unused and almost forgotten, the collection was being stored in our office basement, as Kai Hughes, ICA Managing Director explains: “The records span a large and significant period of time. They provide a rich social and business history of the influential cotton industry over the past 213 years. It is vital that the collection is effectively documented and kept in an environment that can guarantee its future preservation and availability as a public and historical source of information. I am very pleased that our forthcoming office move has acted as the catalyst to enable this to happen.”
The project took seven months to complete. Archivist, Vincent McKernan, was tasked with the job of cataloguing the collection and during the work he came across some significant finds: “The records show that Liverpool can justifiably claim to have been the world’s greatest cotton market for over 100 years, and that its cotton brokers were men of vision. In 1866, Liverpool Cotton Broker John Rew invented hedge fund trading, which revolutionised the cotton market with spectacular success. During World War I, the Association not only paid its employees who joined up two-thirds of their wages whilst serving their country, but also established a War Benevolent Fund to help relatives who had lost loved ones. But their obsession with conducting business out of doors in all weathers led to a spectacular and infamous snowball fight at Exchange Flags in 1854, which saw important cotton brokers arrested and their angry colleagues retaliating by roughly handling the police Head Constable and knocking his hat off as he beat a hasty retreat. A poem was penned the day after the fight and was published in the Liverpool Mercury. The range of records in the archive is truly remarkable.”
The catalogue of the complete ICA collection from 1798 to 2004 is now available online as part of the archive catalogue at the Liverpool Record Office.