From telescopes to the Erie Canal, to planes, trains and automobiles, technological innovations have long been incorporated into wallpaper designs. With cast iron reaching new aesthetic and structural heights in architecture beginning in the 1850s, it made sense to capture its more decorative aspect in a wallpaper design. This paper highlights views of New York City architectural landmarks including Trinity Church, Federal Hall, Exchange Place, Grace Church, and Castle Garden, with each view enclosed within a decorative cast iron framework. Flowering vines are entwined around the support columns. A narrow border fragment is still attached at the top edge with the border colors matching those found in the sidewall paper. The format of this design is quite typical for the period but the normal framing elements of scrolling foliage and wood moldings have here been replaced with decorative cast iron. While the maker of this paper is unknown it is appropriate that the cast iron design incorporates New York City landmarks as there were numerous cast iron foundries in New York City. The SoHo (South of Houston) district of New York City contains possibly the largest collection of cast iron architecture in the world.
With origins dating back to ancient China, cast iron was not a new material at this time but there was a boom in its use for architecture. Refinements in its production allowed the material to be used as a structural element in large building projects beginning in the late eighteenth century, while its cheapness and availability in the 1850s led to its increased use in architecture. Support columns made of cast iron were more slender than those of masonry supporting a similar weight, which created more usable interior space, and also allowed for larger, more decorative windows when used on the exterior.