Floral wallpapers constitute probably the largest grouping of wallpapers in the Cooper Hewitt collection. Floral designs have always been in fashion since the early days of wallpaper, and appear in every style from neo-classical, to art deco to pop art. Floral designs have also been produced in every printing technique used to produce wallpapers, from stenciling and block printing, to roller printing and screen printing. The very earliest machine printed wallpaper in the museum collection is a floral design. This paper is a very humble, modest design from ca. 1930. It is a simple design consisting of three main groups or bouquets of flowers, each printed in few colors with metallic gold highlights. Notice that while there is a background color the design is printed on unground paper. Each of the floral and vining foliate motifs are printed in a void in the background color. And while the paper has now oxidized and turned a tan color giving the design a very warm, subtle appearance, when new the paper would have been much whiter so the soft colors of the flowers and metallic highlights would have been much crisper and higher contrast.
The application of the ground color is done by a different machine than the one that prints the design, as the ground color is a heavier more opaque pigment that takes longer to dry. For a machine-printed paper each of the colors is printed in fast succession so the colors are quite thin to facilitate rapid drying. Cutting out the ground printing process eliminates one step in the paper’s production which noticeably reduces the purchase price.