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Hunting for Vintage Wallpapers

By the 1900s, over 400-million wallpapers were being sold worldwide, some of which command high prices on the antiques market.

With today’s interest in vintage interior design concepts, wallpaper featuring old style imagery is making a huge comeback.

Wallpaper has developed as a decorative art form which is easily changed as the styles change.

Many of us are interested in sprucing up the place around the holidays so installing new or even old wallpaper can be a fun redecorating project.

Dating as far back as the early days of decorative papyrus papermaking in ancient Egypt, wallpaper as we know it has evolved over time. The Chinese first glued rice paper to walls around 200 BC. By the 12th century AD, wallpaper had spread throughout Europe.

Some believe that wallpaper’s imitative character — trying to look like something it is not such as a fine textile like chintz, tapestry or velvet — makes the use of wallpaper a cheap option.

Others embrace wallpaper’s easy and transitional quality. Many folks enjoy the fact that wallpaper can bring a desired look or new feel to a room at little expense.

Some of the most popular wallpapers have been decorated with repeated images like the wallpaper produced in 1481 for King Louis XI of France featuring angels on a blue background. The engraver Jean-Michel Papillon invented wallpaper as we know it using block designs in a continuous pattern in 1675, but it would take another 100 years for the wallpaper printing machine to be introduced.

 

American Papers
Wallpaper was introduced to Americans by a Philadelphia printer in the late 1730s.

By the end of the 1770s, wallpaper print workshops were established in the original 13-colonies. Patriotic wallpapers were popular in the late 1700s as were those with repeated images of fruit and flowers for dining rooms and living room walls.

The installation of wallpaper changed significantly and so did design tastes in the late 1880s.

The first ready-to-use wallpaper paste would come onto the scene in 1888. And, design innovations of the Art Nouveau period demonstrated wallpapers featuring organic forms from nature, scrollwork, and embellishments sparked by the aesthetic ideas of art innovators Louis Comfort Tiffany and William Morris.

By the early decades of the 1900s, the golden age of wallpaper was in full swing and as many as 400-million rolls of the printed decorative papers were sold worldwide.

During this era, high-class wallpapers typically feature exotic locales, lush green landscape vistas, and images of social events like polo matches and hunting scenes.

In fact, animals of all kinds were among the most popular features on wallpapers of the early 20th Century. Dogs, cats, rabbits, and fish made wallpaper imagery all the rage.

In the mid 1900s, wallpaper was popular with young American families setting up housekeeping in new Levittown homes after World War II.

Printed and playful images on wallpaper would provide an inexpensive and longwearing interior design solution. New materials of the day, including plastics and resins, changed the wallpaper industry as mid-century modern wallpapers boasted durability and strength.

However, in the market today, collectors have been known to feature even small pieces of antique and vintage wallpaper as framed works of art. Full rolls of wallpaper dating back to the 1800s rarely come onto the collectibles market yet there have been some wallpapers sold on the antiques market dating back to the Victorian era and to the Roaring 20s (that is, the golden age of wallpaper).

It is rare for large pieces of antique wallpaper to come to market so large supplies of old wallpaper command high prices for their rarity when sold at auction or online.  

Recent advances in digital printing techniques have allowed the replication of historic images and the production of decorative papers. Large scale vinyl cut-out decals and silhouette images are adhered to walls along with life size full-color photographs of football and baseball players. These new images have ushered in a new generation of wallpapers.

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Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on the hit TV show, Discovery channel’s Auction Kings.  Learn about your antiques at www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.

satyamagg January 01, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I like this wallpaper so.....i can save this image in my cell phone.
Gerry Dungan January 01, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Hi Satyamagg, glad you liked Dr. Lori's wallpaper photo! - I grew up in a house that didn't have wallpaper, but one room did have faux-brick panels, which I think were popular in the 70s.

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