This design of tall ships surrounded by dolphins in a turbulent sea was first used as a cretonne design, or printed cotton fabric, produced by Steiner & Co. This was published in The Studio magazine in 1899.
The design re-surfaced years later as this sanitary wallpaper. This is a classic pattern for a bathroom, a room in which water themes have long been favored. If you have patterns of tropical fish, mermaids, boats, put them in the bathroom!
This design is a dramatic change from earlier Dresser designs in that it is showing a seascape, and a ship with billowing sails. Dresser was an early proponent of the British design reform who believed it was fine to paper your walls but that they should always be represented as a two-dimensional surface. Trompe l’oeil patterns were thought to be dishonest.
Sanitary papers were first developed in the 1870s in response to cries from healthcare workers that wallpapers were unhealthy. These early papers were intaglio printed with oil colors using engraved copper rollers, which created a surface that could be wiped clean. Prior to sanitary papers, wallpapers were all printed with water soluble pigments and could not be cleaned. Sanitary papers were advocated for use with children, the elderly, kitchens, washrooms and work rooms. Sanitary papers remained in production into the 1930s. Washable wallpapers as we know them today were developed in 1934. This is a flexographic print (printed with non water-soluble inks using rubber rollers) believed to have been printed at the Lightbown Aspinall factory of the Wall Paper Manufacturers which is how the production date was established.