On the morning of June 4, 1859, in the series of wars for a unified Italy, the French and allied Italian armies, though of inferior strength, fell upon the Austrian army defending Milan in the vineyards and mulberry groves about the small town of Magenta. (See also FIFE.)
This battle, which subsequently was known by the name of the town, was momentous and a great victory for the French and their allies.
It had a side effect, however, in a direction quite remote from warfare. In the field of chemistry a new aniline dye had recently been discovered.
It produced a beautiful purplish-red color, not unlike the color of crushed unripe mulberries, and this new dye, though sometimes called “aniline red,” had not yet received a distinctive name.
When news of the battle in northern Italy reached the French chemists, the name magenta struck them as an excellent label for the dye in celebration of the victory.
The dye is now preferably known as “fuchsin,” a name given to it because the color is like that of the blossom of the fuchsia.