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Historic New England Catalogues Three Centuries of Wallpaper

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Historic New England Catalogues Three Centuries of Wallpaper

Wallpaper was first popularized in New England back in the early 1700s, when it was considered a luxury import. According to expert Richard Nylander, “the first record of wallpaper in America is in the estate inventory of a Boston stationer in 1700, where ‘7 quires of painted paper and three reams of painted paper’ were listed.”

Historic New England, the largest regional heritage organization dedicated to preserving New England’s rich history and culture, has catalogued a history of wallpaper dating back to the 18th century. During this time, “paper hangings” were hand-printed on individual sheets of paper glued together, and thus only the wealthiest colonists could afford to cover their homes in printed designs.

Since 2012, Historic New England had been compiling and digitizing its wallpaper collection, thanks in large part to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Now, more than 6,000 samples from the 1750s to 1950s are available on the group’s website. The online database spans three centuries, from early imports to designs by the great William Morris to classic vinyl wallcoverings of the 20th century. Rolled, flat, oversized and 3D samples provide viewers with a visual guide through the evolution of wallpaper, with swatches taken from scrapbooks, borders, bandboxes, fireboards, scenic panels and (of course) walls.

“The collection is searchable by date, location, and manufacturer, and my keywords like color and type of pattern,” said cataloguer Peggy Wishart. “You can zoom in to see every detail.”

The result of Historic New England’s undertaking is a headquarters for browsing the unique character, patterns and prints of wallpaper. Check out a few of our favorites:

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Today, wallpaper is seeing a digital resurgence as a versatile design element. Modern wallpaper lends itself to unlimited creativity. Brands use it for advertising and display graphics, while interior designers add flair to their work with sleek, modern patterns. Even novice creatives are making their own designs online.

At Duggal, we provide custom wallpaper solutions ranging from repositionable “magic canvas” to seamless large format vinyl. To learn more about these services, stop by 29 W 23rd Street or call us at 212-242-7000.

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