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The History of Wallpaper

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The distribution rights for this wallpaper design by Joseph Rameé was obtained by the Philadelphia firm of Messrs. Virchaux & Co.

The distribution rights for this wallpaper design by Joseph Rameé was obtained by the Philadelphia firm of Messrs. Virchaux & Co.

The Chinese glued rice papers onto their walls as early as 200 BC - but this was not wallpaper as we know it today. Paper as a wall covering was first used by the working classes in Britain and in Europe as a substitute for costly materials. Frenchmen, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the first machine for printing wallpaper in 1785. Frenchmen, Louis Robert invented a way to make an endless roll of wallpaper around the same time. The earliest wallpapers in England and France were hand painted or stenciled.

Philadelphia had become the center of wallpaper production in the United States by the end of the eighteenth century, although French influence continued to dominate the design of domestic papers. Subjects ranged from commemorative and panoramic scenes to designs drawn from architecture and nature, like the garland adorning these two tromp l'oeil columns in the photo to the right.

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