The wallpaper manufacturer, Jeffrey & Co. published the trade catalog, The “Victorian” wall-papers, embossed leather-papers, staircase decorations, ceiling papers, detailing their collection of wallpapers, in 1887. Based at 64 Essex Road in London, the firm worked with a variety of designers who were active in the aesthetic and arts and crafts movements, such as E.W. Godwin, William Morris, and Walter Crane. Jeffrey & Co.’s success is often credited to Metford Warner, who became the company’s chief proprietor in 1871. Under Warner the firm became one of the most lucrative and influential wallpaper manufacturers in Europe. The trade catalog was intended to present wallpaper designs to potential clients. “The ‘Victorian’ Wall-Papers” collection, consisted of several patterns by Walter Crane, Lewis F. Day, F.V. Hart, W. Scott Morton, and J. D. Sedding. The company clarified that wallpaper should not be reserved for use solely in mansions, but should be available for rooms in the homes of the emerging upper-middle class.
The pattern called “The Royal Jubilee Wall-Paper,” by F.V. Hart, was designed in honor of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. Many symbols connected to Queen Victoria and the British monarchy are included in the pattern, such as the Tudor Rose, Scottish Thistle, and Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown. The wallpaper alludes to Queen Victoria’s political and cultural influence throughout the world.
Another pattern in the publication, “The Golden Age”, by Walter Crane, depicts a complex pattern including a series of putti, animals, and fruit. The bountiful scene was intended to be produced in embossed leather and embossed leather paper. Crane, primarily known for his children’s book illustrations, began designing wallpaper and other decorative objects for Jeffrey & Co. He became a leading designer of the era since his works were created for the contemporary home that reflected on Great Britain’s rich history. Jeffrey & Co. produced works that established a high standard of design for consumers in England and beyond. The trade catalog is part of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Library’s vast collection of rare books and trade catalogs.
Erica M. Schaumberg is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by Cooper Hewitt and Parsons School of Design. She is also a fellow at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library.