Osnaburg was a coarse type of plain fabric, named from the archaic English name for the city of Osnabrück, Germany.[1]

Osnaburg fabric may have been first imported into English-speaking countries from Osnaburg. Originally made from flax yarns, it has also been made from tow or jute yarns, and from flax or tow warp with a mixed or jute weft. The finer and better qualities form a kind of common sheeting, and the various kinds may contain from 20 to 36 threads per inch and 10 to 15 picks per inch.

It began to be woven in Scotland in the later 1730s as an imitation of an imported German fabric that was a coarse lint- or tow-based linen cloth. It quickly became the most important variety in east-central Scotland. Sales quadrupled, from 0.5 million yards in 1747 to 2.2 million yards in 1758. It was exported mainly to England, the Netherlands, and Britain's colonies in America, and some rough fabrics were called osnaburg as late as the twenty first century. In the Atlantic plantation complex, prior to the abolition of slavery, osnaburg was the fabric most often used for slave garments.

In "The Prairie Traveler" (1859) Captain Randolph B. Marcy recommends that every wagon used to cross the plains by settlers "be furnished ... with double osnaburg covers, to protect its contents from the sun and weather."[2]

In the novel S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, there is a description of a sailor "clad neck-to-shin in sailor's osnaburg".[3]

In the novel Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, there is a description of slaves being given garments of osnaburg cloth to wear.

The Spanish word "osnaburgo" is still commonly used in Chile to name a coarsely woven cotton or linen fabric.[4]


  1.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Osnaburg". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. Marcy, Randolph B., Capt. (1859). "The Prairie Traveler". Applewood Books. ISBN 9780918222893.
  3. Abrams, J. J (2013). S. Mulholland Books. ISBN 0316201642.
  4. "Diccionario de uso del español de Chile" (PDF). Academia Chilena de la Lengua. Retrieved June 26, 2016.

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