A fragment of 18th-century English floral wallpaper in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
collection (acc. no. 1966-164) shows a vibrant verdigris green glaze background
where the paper was protected by an overlap at the seam.
In early colonial America, wallpaper was used by the more affluent but in the more unimportant rooms of homes. Rooms like the drawing and dining room and ballroom were covered with fabric in strips or panels with fancy cording or wood framing to hide the seams.
By 1712, when wallpaper had become popular in the colonies, the English introduced a tax on any paper that was "painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings." To get around the taxes, artists hand colored wallpaper after it was hung on the wall.
The industry grew and in 1773, Parliament repealed that tax, but still levied custom duties. Many wallpapers of that time were predominently blue in color because indigo, the source of the color, was one of the few crops not taxed by the English. In the early 1800s, falsification of wallpaper customs stamps was a crime punishable by death.
|Popular toile pattern usually printed in blue, red, or green.
Artisans would apply ink to the block with a roller and bring it into firm and even contact with the paper or cloth to achieve an acceptable print. The content would print “in reverse” or mirror-image. Multiple blocks were used for coloring, each for one color.
Often, a simple design was block printed, and an artist embellished the design by hand.
The earliest known fragment of European wallpaper that still exists today was found on the beams of the Lodge of Christ's College in Cambridge, England, and dates from 1509.
In 1785, the first machine for printing colored tints on sheets of wallpaper was invented, and a patent was registered in 1799 for a machine to produce continuous lengths of paper.
Susan F. Craft is the author of The Chamomile, an inspirational Revolutionary War romantic suspense that takes place in Charleston, SC. Lilyan Cameron, the heroine of The Chamomile, is a wallpaper and portrait artist. The Chamomile won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick award. Susan is represented by the Hartline Literary Agency.