Rylands & Sons were cotton manufacturers from Wigan, founded in 1819 by Joseph Rylands and his three sons, Joseph, Richard and John.
Their manufactures for some years consisted of ginghams, checks, ticks, dowlases, calicoes and linens. Business increased rapidly for the company and in 1823 it was able to open a large warehouse at New High Street, Manchester.
The brothers Joseph and Richard retired around 1839 and the death of their father in 1847 made John Rylands the sole proprieter.
In 1873 John converted his business into a limited company, although he retained sole management of it. The firm, which had a capital of £2 million, became the largest textile manufacturing concern in the UK. The business made John Rylands the first multi-millionaire in Manchester. He employed 15,000 people in his 17 mills and factories, producing 35 tons of cloth a day.
John Rylands died in 1888 but his company continued to expand until the 1920s when, like the rest of the Lancashire cotton industry, it began to decline.
In 1953 Rylands & Sons Limited was taken over by Great Universal Stores Limited. In 1971 all active trading ceased.
There are many different Rylands overprints; varieties from Manchester and from Liverpool, others with no city given, and for many of these, reversed versions as well.