Sacred to Washington is one of the earliest American wallpapers in the collection. This is a woodblock print on joined sheets of handmade paper. While it has faded to a uniform shade of gray, the design was originally printed in grisaille, or shades of gray, on a blue ground, as can be seen in abraded areas at the bottom of the design. This is one of two papers in Cooper-Hewitt’s collection honoring George Washington, who died in 1799. Both were produced within a year of his death. The motifs in this design include classic symbols of mourning and patriotism. Looking through the stone arch, the figures of Liberty and Justice are shown flanking a monument, inscribed “Sacred to Washington,” which supports an urn. Trophies of war, including flags, a drum, and a rifle with bayonet, are laid at the base of the monument. An eagle with a drooping head is perched atop the urn. This pillar and arch style format was developed in England during the 18th century. Pillar and arch papers feature repeating columns that support an arch, usually containing an urn or bust. These papers typically had large repeats and, for this reason, were usually reserved for large rooms, entryways, or stair halls, where the large repeat would not overpower the space.
The American wallpaper market was still in its fledgling years when this paper was produced. Wallpaper had been imported to the States since 1700, but Americans did not start producing their own wallpaper until the 1760s. Many of the early American designs were copies of French and British designs, as seen here. Although it took some years for American producers to match the quality of the imported papers, they overcame this disparity by selling their products at a lower price. Ebenezer Clough was a prominent paper stainer who established his Paper Staining Manufactory in Boston in 1795. His papers were printed in colors popular in Europe at the time, and he continued operating his wallpaper manufactory until 1808.