The progress of wall decoration in America went from white walls, to clay wash, to hand painting, to stenciling, to small imported sheets, and, at last, to rolls of paper.
Wallpaper of expensive styles and artistic variety were brought to America as early as 1735. Before that time, clay paint was used by thrifty housewives to freshen and clean the sooty walls and ceilings of their homes, often blackened by the big open fires. This was prepared simply by mixing with water the yellow-gray clay from the nearest clay-bank.
Those who could not afford to import wallpaper, painted their walls, either in one color or added a simple stenciled pattern. Some added panels, in imitation of French papers; each panel with its own picture, large or small. These attempts at decoration ranged with the taste and skill of the artist – from fruit and floral designs and patterns copied from India prints and imported china, to more elaborate hills in a park, for sliding down, toboggan fashion, and a score of people enjoying them or looking on. Rolls of wallpaper did not appear in America until 1790, so most designs imported before this time arrived in square sheets. The progress of wall decoration in America went from white walls, through a clay wash, to hand painting, stenciling, small imported sheets, and, at last, to rolls of paper.
Antique Wallpaper - 18th century English Wallpaper
Sixteen sets of block were necessary to obtain the varied though quiet color effects and the delicate shading.
One of the cruder wallpapers popular in the early 19th century features three groups of figures engaged in rural occupations. Beside the gray ground this paper contains eleven shades of color.
Antique Wallpaper - "Gateway and Fountain"
French wallpaper, imported before 1800, but never hung.
Cathedral Porch and Shrine in Repeated Design, c. 1800
Effectively colored wallpaper showing a shrine in the porch of a cathedral; the repeated design being connected with columns, winding stairs and ruins. The blue sky seen through the marble arches contrasts finely with the green foliage.
"Scenes from Paris" c.1806-1814
Early 19th century Wallpaper - Bay of Naples
A popular paper of the early 19th century in America.
Antique Wallpaper - "On the Bosporus"
From a house in Vermont in which it was hung in 1825, in honor of Lafayette who was entertained there. The Mosque of Santa Sophia and other buildings of Constantinople are seen in the background.