Wallpaper history

By Rita

Like many words in the English language, technology and popular usage have given alternate meanings to common words. For example, wallpaper used to be used simply as a noun–paper to cover a wall. In the most modern usage it can refer to the digital background of a computer screen. Wallpaper can also be a verb, as in to spread over a large surface or area.

Nature wallpaper is popular both as a wall covering and for computer desktops. People have for many years decorated their private environments to personalize their space, and to create a “homey” feel, whether that is the walls of your room, or the screen you look at hours a day. I thought it might be of interest to get a little history of wallpaper, in the old use of the term.

Wallpaper actually began in ancient China. The Chinese first invented paper and they are the first to glue rice paper onto their walls in about 200 B.C.

As the evolution of paper occurred, so did the evolution of wallpaper. The materials use to make paper changed and the use of wallpaper spread throughout the Middle East and into Europe. Early wallpapers had to be painted by artists and were more expensive than the common household could afford. With the advent of the printing press, multi-color printing machines, and ready-to-use wallpaper paste, wallpaper became less expensive and available to more households.

Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper in Philadelphia in 1739. Most of the early designs were a copy of the European fashions but by 1800, by using hand carved blocks, scenic prints were introduced.

It was in the roaring ‘20s that wallpaper really took the spotlight. This time became known as the Golden Age of Wallpaper—400 million rolls were sold. Wallpaper fell into disfavor during the “Modernism” era. The blandness of homes and the sterile work environment have led to the rediscovery of patterned walls and nature wallpaper.

Now instead of wallpaper we should think in terms of wall coverings. Technology has given us a host of products that are washable, long lasting, pre-pasted, works of art that are beautiful, interesting and very affordable.

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