Cocktail wallpaper. United States, 1936-56. Gift of Suzanne Lipschutz. 1991-89-110.

Cocktail wallpapers

Cocktail papers followed the end of Prohibition in 1933. This design is typical of the genre, with its whimsical personifications of cocktails. The drinks shown in this design include a Pink Lady, Sidecar, a Manhattan, Scotch & Lime, and a Stinger. They are printed in bright colors on a metallic copper background. Quite often, these motifs were mixed with elements of gaming, such as cards or dice. Interior decorators began recommending game rooms for adult use in the mid-1930s. These rooms served multiple purposes and frequently included a home bar, which made it the perfect room for these papers.

When researching cocktail papers, I found there is almost no information on the subject. This may be due to the conservative nature of the wallpaper market. Immediately following the end of Prohibition, the promotion of alcohol was likely still a delicate topic and wallpaper manufacturers might not have wanted to make any waves by advertising cocktail-themed papers. The whimsical nature of the designs probably made the papers feel less threatening. There are about 10 different cocktail papers in the Cooper-Hewitt collection. Some are very comical, such as this one, while others take drinking more seriously and employ a more sophisticated tone.

Enacted in 1920 with the ratification of the 18th Amendment, Prohibition was officially repealed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 5, 1933.

Museum Number: 
1991-89-110