Excerpt from Historic New England article about wallpaper -
At first, paper hangings, as wallpaper was called in the eighteenth century, were available from stationers and book sellers or as a custom order from merchants who specialized in imported luxury goods; later, it also could be purchased from upholsterers. Prior to 1760, only the wealthiest colonists in urban centers in New England could afford to decorate their homes with wallpaper but it became increasingly available as the century progressed. Much of the expense of these early wallpapers was due to the fact that the rolls they were printed on had to be made up of individual sheets of paper glued together and that they were hand-printed with wood blocks, one block for each color of the design.
The most sumptuous eighteenth-century wallpapers were the flocked patterns which imitated silk or wool damasks and cut velvets. The patterns were often large-scale foliate designs printed in bold colors.
Excerpt from History Magazine written by Barbara Krasner
Wallpaper began as a cheap substitute for tapestry and paneling. Some historians believe that the use of wallpaper dates back to the 1400s. The first wallpapers were decorations for wood panels, introduced into England by Flemish craftsmen. The papers were small squares with images printed by wood blocks, which were then colored in by hand. As the desire increased to find a less expensive alternative to the wall-hangings of the rich, printers produced simple yet decorative paper panels.
In the 1500s, the wealthy continued to cover their walls but now they did so with brocades, velvets and even embossed leather. The earliest known wallpaper in England dates back to 1509 - an Italian-inspired woodcut pomegranate design printed on the back of a proclamation issued by Henry VIII. Discovered in 1911 at Christ's College in Cambridge, the paper is attributed to Hugo Goes, a York printer. In general, wallpaper of this period depicted floral designs and murals. Wallpaper's popularity increased in Elizabethan England. Throughout Europe, a fascination began with these fine papers that offered protection against dampness and an improved ability to handle fireplace smoke.
But wallpaper wasn't purely a Western invention. The Chinese began to produce it in the early 1600s, showered with painted birds, flowers and landscapes on rice paper formed in rectangular sheets.
French designer, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, took his inspiration from painted decoration on wooden paneling, doors and shutters - a style originated by Raphael in the Vatican. His designs featured long vertical and graceful designs of urns, flowers, swans, birds and beasts block-printed in dozens of different colors, and flowing upward from a central motif. His papers were to be hung as panels, separated by borders and plain wallpaper sections. He also introduced papers that used strong colors - reds, ochres, terracottas, greens and azure blues - in addition to the traditional black. Classical motifs, medallions and dancing figures filled the panel area. Réveillon papers became a popular export to the US during the 1700s and can still be seen in New England homes.
Below is a list of wallpaper companies or suppliers that I have curated for you that specialize in wallpaper for historic homes or traditional style homes. I hope this helps you with your research.
Adelphi Paper Hangings - Based out of New York - Adelphi offers hand-printed patterns licensed from the archives of Historic New England, The Smithsonian Institution, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Old Sturbridge Village, the New York State Historical Association, the Musée du Papier Peint (Rixheim, France), and from many other historic institutions and private collections.
A.L. Diament & Co. - A.L. Diament & Co. was established in 1885 in Philadelphia, and is the oldest continuing wallpaper company in America. The company quickly became the area’s premier decorating firm and the country’s leading manufacturer and importer of fine furnishings, providing America’s most prestigious decorators with the finest Europe and the United States had to offer. Here you will also find rare and antique French Scenic Wallpapers.
Brunschwig & Fils - From grand rooms in the White House and the Palace of Versailles to romantic country retreats in cottages and seaside homes, Brunschwig & Fils fabrics, wallcoverings and furnishings have appeared for more than a century in the world’s most beautiful and iconic interiors. Brunschwig & Fils is the canon of high quality decorative textiles in the home furnishings industry, and today its many other products include wallcoverings, trimmings, upholstered furniture, tables and lighting. Early 19th Century to early 20th century screen printed wallpaper reproduction wallpaper and borders.
Anaglypta and Lincrusta - Lincrusta was launched in 1877 and became popular in applications from royal homes to railway carriages. Heralded as the first washable wallcovering, it appealed to Victorians because of its sanitary properties as well as its durability and ornate effects.
de Gournay - Chinese hand-painted murals and renditions of French Scenic's
Clarence House - Clarence House has supplied the furnishing fabrics for pre-eminent museums and countless historic houses and has been consistently featured in every important design and architectural magazine. Clarence House is famous for its handscreen printing of fabrics and wallpapers.
Belfry Historic Wallpapers - Purveyors of historically accurate documented fabrics, carpeting, wallpapers, trimmings, and research since 1986. Belfry Historic Consultants specializes in high quality offerings from around the world which combine period authenticity, unmatched quality, and exceptional beauty.
Cole & Son - Along with their wallpapers to select from, Cole & Son also offers a Bespoke Service that offers an opportunity to create a personal and unique wallpaper. Suitable for those who wish to have their favourite current design in a particular color. Cole & Son offers a breadth of printing techniques, employing methods relevant to each design. The are one of the few wallpaper companies in the world who can still flock wallpaper.
Farrow & Ball - Handcrafted wallpapers, made using Farrow & Ball paints
Hamilton Weston - Reproduction Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian wallpapers perfect for decorating historic homes and elegant restorations of treasured buildings.
HistoricStyle.com - William Morris, Victorian, Arts & Crafts & early 20th c. wallpapers.
Hannah's Treasures - Antiques & Vintage wallpapers dating from 1900 to 1970, including a vintage collection of Nancy McClellan wallpapers
James Randolph Rogers & Co. - Based in New York and the UK offering documented block printed wallpapers
Paul Montgomery Studios - Chinese hand-painted panels and murals
Laura McCoy Designs - Laura Mc Coy Designs, Inc. (LMD) specializes in reproducing document wallpapers for museum houses and private clients.
Scalamandre - As a legendary American luxury brand, Scalamandré’s mission is to inspire interior designers with beautiful decorative textiles, wallcoverings, trimmings and furniture of the highest quality. Throughout its history and to this day, Scalamandré has been called upon by many of America’s most extraordinary properties. Historic restoration and cultural commissions number well over a thousand. Among these are The White House, the United States Capitol, United States Treasury, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, The Morgan Library, Wrightsman Galleries at Metropolitan Museum of Art, Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum, Winterthur, the Mansions of Newport, Radio City Music Hall, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Additionally, Scalamandré remains the preeminent resource for America's leading designers and decorators for their most distinguished custom textile, wallpaper and trimmings projects.
Second Hand Rose - Buyer and seller of antique wallpaper
Stark Wallcovering - For home design enthusiasts Stark offers luxurious textiles and wallpaper perfect for historic homes.
Thibaut Wallpaper - Established in 1886, Thibaut is the nation’s oldest continuously operating wallpaper firm. Their wallpaper lines offer beautiful traditional and transitional designs in signature color palettes.
Zoffany - Offering a large selection of English wallpapers