This is one of those novelty wallpapers designed to put a smile on your face. The water theme clearly designates this as a bathroom paper, and what a way to start and end your day. The humor abounds, sometimes in-your-face obvious and other times more subtle, which is one of the signs of a good design. It makes the paper more interesting as you keep finding little details you hadn’t noticed before, and it keeps your eyes moving around the design. The glass shower stall turned aquarium, home to a mermaid and tropical fish, the three arms reaching out from a very narrow shower curtain, and the cracked mirror above Bertha’s shaving mug, are some of the more obvious delights. The unhappy dog getting a bath, and the webbed feet on another tub, are some of the more subtle touches. And do take note of the different wallpaper designs in each scene. Also, the white line illustrations on the black ground create a strong graphic that is sure to add drama to any bath.
Sanitas was one of the early washable wallcoverings introduced by Standard Table Oilcloth Company in 1903. Similar products were made by other manufacturers but Sanitas was the most heavily marketed. It was available in a glazed or dull finish and patterns included florals, tile effects, solid colors or burlap. Back when wallcoverings were printed with water soluble inks and couldn’t be cleaned, Sanitas offered a solution. Initially an oil-pigment coated fabric, after the war the manufacturer began using latex and introduced Super Sanitas. These washable fabric wallcoverings were durable and recommended for children’s rooms, washrooms, and any high traffic areas. They could be wiped clean if soiled and when needed, could be repainted.
14 thoughts on “Has Anyone Seen Bertha?”
EJ on March 29, 2015 at 5:27 am
We had this wallpaper in our bathroom when I was growing up in the 80s. It was left over from when my grandparents owned the house. The color scheme was green on white instead of white on black. I was fascinated by the design as a little girl.
Elijah Selby on March 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm
OMG! Gregory Herringshaw, where and how did you find this?!!!!! I, too, had this in one of our bathrooms growing up…but in green with white background. I LOVED this as a kid and would stare at it all the time, looking for the nuances. So fun! When I got older I thought it was tacky and I would roll my eyes at it. Sigh. Now I can appreciate it again. Although I’m not sure I would paper my bathroom with it…
Thank you for posting!
Laura Finke Mc Coy on March 31, 2015 at 12:01 pm
I worked for Sanitas from 1980-1984 and this predates that time. Although it was meant to be used everywhere it was targeted for kitchens and baths and we always had lots of collections for that. By the early 80s country style and small prints were big and I remember laughing at this earlier paper and its sly humor with delight! These patterns were called “Novelties” and although I missed out on designing them then, I collect them now and have great ones in my archive. Too bad I don’t have this one yet…hey Greg, do you have any extra?
Sheila on August 2, 2016 at 9:27 am
I have some of this paper. I searched for years for it, and finally someone sent me some when I found It on her site. This wallpaper is one of my fondest memories growing up. It was put up between 1958-1960? and I loved how my father was so proud that he picked it out, because the home was always my mothers pride and joy, and he loved to tease her that everyone loved it, and it was his idea. It was up for years and years, and it was never the same when it finally got changed. I never use any wallpaper but Sanitas, it last forever. I do know that it was in a Sanitas sample book Vol 65 and the book was Orange. The person that sent me the wallpaper had the book with this in it, so I’m sure it was in that Volume. I really wish I could find that book, but it’s the one thing I have never found. Bless, Sheila
Kathie Bauer on January 31, 2018 at 11:57 am
Do you still have any of 5is paper?
Liesl J on January 31, 2018 at 2:15 pm
I would love to find some of this paper!!!
Sheila on August 2, 2016 at 9:49 am
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that you posted this about my all time favorite wallpaper. I have a lot of it, that is not in very good shape, but being taken from a home many, many years ago, I was still thrilled with it. I found someone online with some, and she sent it to me. I also know that it was listed in a Sanitas book Volume 65 and the book was orange. I have not been able to find the book, but I will continue to search. I got a great deal of it, however mine has a white background with more of an Aqua shade in it. It brings back so many memories for me, and seeing it, is like seeing my childhood and the wonderful, loving home it was in. I will be hanging this paper one day, and I will continue to look for it to give to my sisters and brothers. They still love it too. With 7 children in the home, you can’t imagine how many of the neighborhood children knew us as “The house with that crazy wallpaper” everyone knew who we were, and it was also a way to know where a neighborhood was, when you needed good directions. I just wanted to say Thank you so much for this wonderful memory. My only wish is, that one day, they would consider making this again. I know so many that would love to have it in their homes, and today, we need all the laughs we can get. Bless, Sheila PS I also have photos of it too. Let me know if you would like to see them, and I will post them on my facebook page for you.
Kathie Bauer on January 29, 2018 at 10:50 pm
I am very interested in finding pieces of this wallpaper to frame ina beach house remodel. Both my husband and ai had this in our homes and it was on e in this beach house but destroyed in 1991. Do you have any to sell? Or would you send digital pictures of each scene we might be able to copy?
Kathie Bauer on January 31, 2018 at 11:58 am
Do you still have any of this paper?
Jean on August 7, 2016 at 10:56 am
The thrill of seeing these images once again is hard to express. My childhood 1/2 bath had this paper – black with white design, and I too enjoyed looking at the small details. It was an odd choice for such a small bathroom, but I remember it fondly. We moved into that house in approx. 1957/58 and it graced the walls as far back as I can remember. Thanks so much for reminding me what it was I loved about this design!
Bob Mooney on May 10, 2019 at 3:38 pm
Like several or those who wrote about this wallpaper I would like to find some of it for remodeling the bathroom of our cabin (a house really) which we bought in 1986. Built in the early 1950s, our home’s version of it is black ink on a white background so it was interesting to learn there is this reversed version as well as versions in other colors. Does anyone know how one might have some of the paper reproduced?
Dianna Jackson on July 19, 2020 at 6:14 pm
Did you ever solve your problem of finding out how it might be reproduced?
Robert Mooney on May 13, 2019 at 2:53 pm
Comparing the piece pictured in this posting to the remnant of a roll left from its use in our house it is evident that Cooper Hewitt’s sample is incomplete. The actual wallpaper is 24 inches wide and the sample is missing about 1 5/8″ on the left and 3 3/4″ on the right. This doesn’t quite add up because 24″ – 5 3/8″ = 18 5/8″ and this item is reported at https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18658335/ as being 19½” wide but my measurements are from an actual sample of the paper. Measuring across the features at the left and right of the piece pictured on the actual paper that width is 18 5/8″. Lost from the overall pattern are the left side of the shower stall/aquarium and on the right the lavatory sink to the right of the woman reading in her bath tub, the bulk of a toilet with flowers on the tank top, and the smoking steam ships in the bath tub to the right of the three armed figure in the shower where we see just a small bit of that bath tub.
Dianna Jackson on July 19, 2020 at 6:13 pm
I want some of this wallpaper. Or the shower curtain that made to match. Please let me know if you have some for purchase. Thanks.