Friday, December 26, 2008

Wallpaper in the Colonies


Most people don't think of wallpaper when they think of colonial homes in America, but it did exist. Colorful wallpaper with elaborate designs were imported into the country from Europe.

Of course, it wasn't something the average farm family purchased. Mostly it was only affordable for wealthy plantation owners and merchants. The photo to the left is of the inside room of the Rosedale Plantation home in Charlotte, North Carolina, showing the original imported wallpaper from France. The photo below is a close-up of the design. The home was built in 1815.


The inventor of wallpaper is a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Michel Papillon, who began making block designs in 1675. At first, most wallpaper were expensive hand-painted designs until the use of printing it became available and economical. In America, Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper as early as 1739 in Philadelphia. Besides on walls, it was also used as trunk linings.

Frenchman, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the first machine for printing wallpaper in 1785. It was also a Frenchman who invented a way to make a continuous roll of wallpaper around the same time. For more information on the history of wallpaper, click here.

So if you are writing about a wealthy family in Europe or America during these time periods, feel free to describe a home with rooms decorated in wallpaper.


3 comments:

You always have such interesting posts.

Rita

http://ritagerlach.com/

Thanks, Rita. Wallpaper is something that I think most readers would identify as a recent invention--at least in the lat 19th century, when in reality, it was much earlier. Thanks for stopping by.

Jennifer,

I knew wallpaper was available to those who could afford it, but I'd never actually researched the dates and origins. Most interesting. I used wallpaper for the parlor of my characters' middling sized plantation, late 1780s. It would have been unusual for a mid-sized planter to have even one room wallpapered, back in the piedmont, but I fixed that when he married an eastern planter's widow, who brought a lot of fancy trappings to the marriage. :)