Sidewall, USA, 1930-34. Machine-printed. Gift of Mark Bitter, Robert Bitter, Ward Bitter, and Tami Bitter Cook, 1992-139-37.

Wallpaper Cubed

I have always found these cubist wallpapers charming and attractive in their simple design format. These were produced in a wide array of styles but all contained some arrangement of seemingly random cube patterns printed in pastel colors. Virtually all of these designs were printed on an ungrounded paper. The application of a ground color became more important with the introduction of wood pulp paper in the 1850s. As you are probably aware, papers containing wood pulp tend to oxidize and start turning brown shortly after production. The ground color would disguise this discoloration and extend the original beauty of the paper. Ungrounded means inexpensive. Not applying a ground color to a wallpaper saved an entire step in the production process and eliminated the need for a grounding machine.

These wallpapers are casual in nature and streamlined in their geometric format and soft pastel colors. To get more information on the use of these papers I looked through a number of wallpaper sample books ranging in date from 1928 through 1935. These designs were recommended primarily for use in kitchens, breakfast rooms, and pantries, but were also suggested for use in upstairs hallways. As I mentioned, these papers were not of the highest quality so were not appropriate for high traffic areas, hence being relegated to the upstairs. But they were also modestly priced, as the samples I checked ranged in price from 12 ½ cents per single eight yard roll (sold only by the double roll) to 18 cents.

The only information printed in the selvedge of this paper is “Printed with Fast Colors”. This notation is significant and helps date the paper. Wallpapers became light fast, or fade resistant, in 1928. This meant the papers could be exposed to light for longer periods of time with less fading. It does not mention that the wallpaper is washable, which came about in 1934. These were two of the biggest developments in wallpaper manufacture during the early 20th century, and manufacturer's were very steadfast in printing this information on their wallpapers as a marketing tool. I did not notice any of these designs prior to 1930 and, as this does not state it is washable, will assume it was produced before 1934.

Museum Number: 
1992-139-37