The Salem Towne House Hallway, Old Sturbridge Village


a. introduction

b. the LeBaron wallpapers

c. versions of “Garland and Tassel”

d. floorcloths and painting

e. site conditions

f. installation

Illustration 1

a. introduction

The first hurdle: the home that anchors one end of the village green in Old Sturbridge is not a town house, but a Towne House. Indeed, Salem Townes I, II and III are integral to the story. The house was built in the 18th century by the first Towne, but the recent refurbishing takes its cues from the inheritance of the home by Salem Towne, Jr. in 1825. And it was the scampering feet and poking fingers of Salem Towne III and his five siblings that wore down the stairs and chipped the woodwork of the hall, making refinishing necessary during the mid-20’s. So runs the hypothesis that drove the recent refurbishment.
On average, three people live in the American household of today. Like most homes of the time, the Towne House sheltered far more. At least twelve of Salem Towne, Jr.'s family and dependents occupied his father's home in the years leading up to the change in ownership. The house came to the living history museum from nearby Charlton in 1952. Though displaced, it brought a real history to Sturbridge. It was the homestead for an established yet still industrious farming family.
The first Salem Towne was self-made. By the time his house was built in 1796 he was 50 years old and owned 400 acres. He farmed but also traded in dry goods, served the community as an informal banker, and took military, legislative and judicial posts. His only son filled each of the father's roles in turn. At a time when opportunity beckoned young men West, there was continuity in the Towne household.
And yet this continuity changed somewhat in 1825. The furnishing plan speculates that Mrs. Salem Towne, Jr. may have ". . . maintained the overall look of the entry - a space passed through but not heavily used by family or guests - slightly updating the paint color and replacing the stair runner . . ."
Architectural conservator Brian Powell found that the greater part of the entry woodwork was initially painted pea green, and that a second and brighter glazed green was probably in place by 1825. It also seemed possible that floorcloths were laid in the hall; they were popular with the Townes' social class. Around 1800 floorcloths were often factory made, block printed and costly. They could last decades with occasional revarnishing. The furnishing plan notes that ". . . striped 'Venetian' carpets were popular in late 18th century entry halls, stairwells and family parlors; by the 1840s they were used primarily on stairs and in secondary passages."
Following these clues, furnishing available between 1795 and 1825 were recreated. A Venetian carpet, which could have belonged to either era, was chosen for the stair treads and midlevel stair landing. The hall woodwork would be upgraded to a glazed green, and the ceilings repainted with distemper. Supposed retentions would include a newly varnished floorcloth upstairs and down and a still-intact wallpaper with borders.
Floorcloth and carpet designs and paper-hangings models were readily available. A reproduction Venetian carpet was copied from a fragment in the OSV archives by Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers; floorcloths were commissioned; and a reproduction of a c. 1794 wallpaper with borders was ordered from Adelphi Paper Hangings.

b. the LeBaron wallpapers

Ironically, the refurbishment gave OSV the perfect opportunity to use some already-licensed reproductions of documents from its own collections. An early sidewall, small border, and cornice border now preserved at OSV originally hung in the Lazarus LeBaron house in the nearby town of Sutton, Massachusetts. Some years ago, OSV had licensed Adelphi Paper Hangings to reproduce the sidewall and cornice border with the original distemper and block printing technology. The sidewall is called "Arabesque Pigeons" in the Adelphi catalog, and the border is called "Garland and Tassel". Now, it was OSV's turn to use these reproductions.

Illustration 2
The original wallpapers supposedly date from the construction of the LeBaron house in 1794. The manufacturer is unknown. The sidewall appears to be an American copy of a French type known as the "two pigeons." The blue background and touches of orange strengthen the association, as does the crude rendition of the design. The original "two pigeons" patterns were based on a fable of La Fontaine. Though coming from an arabesque tradition, they were more domestic in tone. Unlike wider and more elaborate panel decorations, the "two pigeons" sidewall patterns filled the walls with alternating motifs. They were often used in bedrooms. But, even though the LeBaron copy followed these traditions, one aspect was decidedly new. While the theme of the classic "two pigeons" pattern is fidelity, symbolized by a return to a love nest, this variant shows further developments: the mate now returns to a hungry brood.
On inspection the ground of the document is very faded. It's hard to say when the fading took place. Specks of ink (probably from the blows of the paperstainer's mallet) are apparent. The paperhanging, too, is far from perfect — mismatches abound. For all of that, the original installation is a charming and robust example of early 19th century ingenuity.
The ensemble is well-documented in the literature. These same border designs surrounded an American copy of a different arabesque at the Barnard Capen House built in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The Capen documents are now in the collections of Historic New England. The tones of grey, pink and rose in the sidewalls and borders of the Capen House installation sound as if they harmonize well.
From a photo of the LeBaron wallpapers in situ it appears that the paperhanger mitered the angles of the small border with some attention to pattern. These niceties were observed in the recent work. However, they were not taken too far. Strict balancing and seamless pattern matching would be out of place when recreating furnishings of the early 19th century, especially in a rural area ― as evidenced by the remains of this very paper. A bonus from the project is that the small LeBaron border, never before reproduced, has been licensed by Adelphi. It's now available as "LeBaron Border."

c. versions of "Garland and Tassel"

Illustration 3
The LeBaron cornice border is practically identical to the one at right which was hung at Pendleton House (Nixonton, North Carolina) in the late 1790's. This cornice border was hung over a plain paper, and the small border below it was hung along the top of the dado. The plaster burns on the pea-green paper from a subsequent lathe and plaster installation are apparent. 
But, this cornice border differs in three ways from the LeBaron cornice border. The Pendleton border ground is buff/yellow; there is a maker's mark on the back of the border (Anthony Chardon's); and the detailing of the tassels is reversed from that of the LeBaron border. One of the borders appears to be a copy of the other.

Illustration 4
The garland/tassel motif appeared on a variety of surfaces in early America, among them, the walls of the Rich Hollow Tavern in East Montpelier, Vermont. An image of that stenciled wall shows the garland/tassel motif in shades of rose, black and white. It's bordered by a white scalloped band on a taupe wall.

Borrowing between wallpaper and stenciling has long been noted by Nina Little and others. In fact, Figure 150 of her American Decorative Wall Painting shows a tassel and swag border not unlike the Chardon/LeBaron border. She dates it to around 1800. The tassels in Little's photo are large and hang down between the swags, as in the wallpaper borders.
  Adelphi's reproduction block print is shown below.

Illustration 5

d. floorcloth and painting

A floorcloth with plain-painted field and patterned border including corner blocks, all elements appropriate to c. 1795, was made for the refurbishment by Marylou Davis. Her work is based on a fragment of a floorcloth found at Kenmore Plantation in Virginia. The fragment shows its second printing (block printed cloths were frequently sent back to a printer for a second design once they had worn). According to Davis, block printed floorcloths were readily available from merchants dealing with English or Scottish goods. These were made in seacoast towns tied to ship building and international commerce. No doubt the availability of wide canvas and labor were advantages for the trade. By 1820, there were a number of factories in the United States making block printed floorcloths.
Davis was also responsible for the distempering of the ceiling and the application of the green glaze applied to most of the interior woodwork of the hall. The effect of this bright green (is it "grass green"?) is electric. It jumps against the richly colored wallpaper. Glazed and varnished greens seem to have been popular in early America, and were often used on mantels. They were used on wallpaper as well. At Carlyle House in Alexandria, for example, a reproduction was done some years ago of the 5 pieces of "gr. varnishd Paper @ 7/" that John Carlyle bought for his house in 1773. Many early wallpapers with touches of shiny green are preserved in museum collections. At the Downs Collection, Wintherthur, a sprawling "India" paper with prominent glossy greens covers a mathematical workbook from around 1813.

e. site conditions

A screen printed wallpaper had decorated the plaster walls of the hall since 1984. This was removed mechanically by dry-scraping the walls with 4" razor tools. Soaking and removal of paper shards followed. The walls were washed clean and patched.
Glue size, an ancient standby, can still be useful for preparing plaster walls for wallpaper. It has three advantages: it can be mixed to varying strengths; it obscures none of the historic fabric; and it remains water-soluble. However, the plaster walls of the Towne House are not old, having been replaced during the move from Charlton in 1952. Plus, they presented a patchwork of different finish materials with different levels of porosity. Application of a modern all-purpose acrylic was therefore specified.
A translucent acrylic wallpaper primer was applied to the walls, followed by installation of an acid free lining paper. A lightweight paper of 90 gsm (grams per square meter) was chosen. This liner helped retain certain qualities of the plaster ― some roughness and a rolling plane. Nevertheless, the liner provided a good base for securing the block prints.
The trimming of the wallpapers followed trade practice of around 1795. Since the edge of each strip overlaps its neighbor, the seams are necessarily more evident. The goal in using shears is to make an edge which is reasonably straight and yet shows the slight wavering of handwork. The underlapping selvedge was also trimmed by hand to three-quarters of an inch, a common historic width. All wallpapers were hung with high-moisture archival pastes: pure wheat and methyl cellulose. Small amounts of commercial polymer/starch based premixes (so-called vinyl adhesives) were added to the paste for overlaps.
The engineering of the wallpaper (layout) is always important. Here, the wall space was dominated by a large hallway on the lower floor. The wall space consisted of about 1,000 square feet over a dado. There was some question about the focal point. The large tripartite window on the midlevel landing could not be ignored, but the balanced door to the upper ballroom also suggested itself. 
In the end it was decided to use both architectural elements, which faced each other, as centering devices. The patterns were centered on each and then adjusted to fit the spaces between them. The fact that the horizontal repeat of the sidewall and that of the border did not coincide made this decision easier. The looseness of the pattern and the rural setting also encouraged a casual approach.

f. installation

The installation was uneventful except that the trimming of the border required some care around the curve of the handrail and around the top curved section of the central window surround. The close-up below shows that the border was ramped ― cut to conform to the curve of the woodwork.

Illustration 6
This was done by trimming the selvedge from the border, using razor blades on a plate-glass cutting surface. The straight inner edges of the border (the "rails") were trimmed out next. The flowers and foliage in the middle section were cut along their curves. This produced a storehouse of floral shapes.
One leg of a steel compass was fitted with a pencil and a line was drawn on the liner tracing the outline of the handrail. More lines were drawn to indicate the middle areas to be filled with the foliage. The floral shapes were pasted, overlapped and trimmed to fill the middle space. Finally, the top and bottom rails were put back, and relief cuts were made in the rails at intervals to conform them to the curve.
One last refinement was made. The six little Townes' had presumably wreaked havoc on the painted and papered finishes of the hallway. The young participants in the extensive Sturbridge educational programs were sure to do the same. How could the handrail border, which had scores of small cuts vulnerable to poking fingers, be protected? The solution was to apply two coats of a flat decorator's varnish to the stairwell border.
It's hoped that this precaution will forestall damage caused by curious visitors of all ages.

Acknowledgements, Sources and Further Reading

This project and article could not have happened without the cooperation of Ed Hood, Vice President of Museum Program at OSV, and Marylou Davis, art conservator and consultant in historic interior design. Sections above quote the furnishings plan, which was written by Suzan Friedlander, then-Curator of Household Furnishings. Paperhanger Elliot Peterson of Hartford, Connecticut helped me with the installation, as did wallpaper trimmers directed by Marylou Davis. The finished photos of border and hall were taken by Charles T. Lyle and are used here with his permission.
The photo of the original sample of “Pompeian” style wallpaper c.1790 appears here courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village Collections, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, accession number 22.10.63a. The OSV web site is at: <>
Mike Fineran helped Marylou Davis carry out the distempering and glazing work. I am indebted to Marylou for information about floorcloths. She adapted floorcloths owned by the George Washington Foundation of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Followers of floorcloths might want to see the article by Bonnie Parks: "The History and Technology of Floorcloths" at:
Two articles in Wallpaper Reproduction News are relevant: "Plain Paper at Pendleton House" in V.7., N.4. and "Saving An Eighteenth Century Wallpaper Scheme," by paper conservator Susan Nash, V.9., N.3. The photo of the Chardon border and stamp appear courtesy of Susan Nash and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is the repository for many of Ms. Nash’s papers and photos. A special thank you to Polly Forcier, stencil entrepreneur, for sending me a slide image of the Rich Hollow Tavern.
The main article about the Towne House at OSV is here:
The extended Towne family is profiled in an article by Jack Larkin here:
For a photo and commentary about the LeBaron wallpapers in situ and the Capen House, see Richard Nylander's Wallpaper In New England, page 91; for another photo of the LeBaron wallpapers, see Catherine Lynn's Wallpaper in America, page 96. For more about arabesque wallpapers, see the catalog Les Papiers Peints en Arabesques, ed. by Bernard Jacque, Musee du Papier Peint, 1995; on page 80 Geert Wisse discusses how sidewall arabesque patterns compare to those meant for panels. For more about La Fontaine's fable of romantic (but not always heterosexual) love see:

Sources of illustrations:

1. Charles T. Lyle; 2. Old Sturbridge Village; 3. Susan Nash/MESDA; 4. Susan Nash/MESDA; 5. Adelphi Paper Hangings; 6. Charles T. Lyle.
Copyright: © 2012 Robert M. Kelly. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported LicensePermissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Blockprints In The Barracks: Interior Finishes at Camp Pickett, San Juan Island


a. introduction
b. three wallpaper artifacts
c. wall and house context
d. Western territories context
e. paper-hangings context
f. the "Pig War" is resolved

a. introduction

The colored lines show disputed 19th century boundaries in the Northwest Territories. For over two decades, the British Empire and the United States contested the issue. In fact, they nearly went to war over it. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 had settled the boundary between the mainland and Vancouver Island by routing it though the middle of the channel separating the Strait of Georgia from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But what did the Treaty mean by "middle"? Rosario Strait (the red line) was favored by the British, while Haro Strait (the blue line), was favored by the Americans. More central yet was the green line (San Juan Channel) but this compromise route was rejected. The matter simmered for a dozen years. And then on June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a large black pig. The shooting was certainly justified. It was not the first time that the pig had enjoyed Cutlar's potatoes. Unfortunately, it was an English pig and an American settler.

We have to interrupt the progress of the "Pig War" since we have a lot of wallpaper ahead. All we really need to know is that soon after the pig died, twenty-one tents were being pitched on the southern tip of San Juan Island in order to house Company D, 9th Infantry, U. S. Army. The tents went up under the direction of Captain George Pickett. He was a Virginia native who would soon quit the U. S. Army and win lasting fame by leading a charge at Gettysburg.

Just as quickly, the Royal Navy established a camp on the northern end of the fifty square mile island. As the opposing forces dug in, Pickett's tent village was improved with wooden construction. Planks and battens from a U. S. fort guarding Bellingham Bay were re-purposed. This explains the traces of earlier paint found on the construction materials of the Officers' Quarters, the only building to survive. The study by art conservator John Twilley of Hawthorne, NY, also revealed

". . . a number of highly pertinent findings including the earliest use of white, tan and caramel-color paints and oil varnishes in conjunction with fauxpainting or graining treatments."

The camp was rude but not small and at one point included twenty-five buildings. Camp Pickett was used for military housing until 1874 and the Officers' Quarters evolved into the main farmhouse of a substantial property. At its largest, the farm consisted of 185 acres. The homestead was acquired by the National Park Service in 1955. The Officers' Quarters/farmhouse and the Royal Navy camp are now part of the San Juan National Historical Park. In an unusual and perhaps unique arrangement, the Union Jack still flies over the British camp.

The compilation of an interior finishes report for the five interior spaces of the Officers' Quarters'/farmhouse helps us understand how wallpaper was bought, sold and installed in the 19th century northwest. The earliest layers on the plank walls include three wallpaper artifacts: two wallpapers and a fabric liner. While the exterior is clad in horizontal weatherboard (a k a clapboard) the plank walls and interior battens are uprights; more important, some of the interior battens were removed and replaced with the linen underlayment prior to paperhanging.

b. three wallpaper artifacts

1. rounded scrollwork Pattern 01
2. pomegranate Pattern 02
3. linen layer

rounded scrollwork Pattern 01

Close to two dozen wallpapers and borders have been catalogued, but the grey and white pattern shown above is by far the earliest. The paper is pasted directly to the planks and battens of Room 01, one of two front rooms. Wavy scissor-trimming and mismatches are evident here and throughout the wallpaper installations of the home, mute evidence of inexpert hands. No doubt handymen and off-hours soldiers were pressed into service, since professional tradesmen from back East tended to settle in cities like San Francisco. They had little reason to visit outposts. An examination of the paper, as quoted from the report, showed the following:

The design is a volute type (commonly called scrollwork). It features grey or lavender rounded scrollwork on an off-white ground. . . The outlines of the grey color are unusually sharp and crisp. They are raised in comparison to the ground. The build-up of paint elevates this paper from common machine printed papers of the era, which utilized thin, runny inks on absorbent grounds. It is probably a blockprint. Pattern 01 is on a strong, relatively long-fibered paper that appears to pre-date 1870. The small (about 2" x 4") sample I received has a slight sheen to the off-white color. It appears to be a polished (satin) ground.

Paint and whitewash were applied as interior finishes during the 1859 construction. The report places the installation of this wallpaper at around 1863. It must have improved the quality of life for the inhabitants of the room. Despite the surroundings, it was a quality paper. A greater improvement came in 1867 with the erection of the lath and plaster shown encapsulating the scrollwork pattern. Many wallpapers followed.

At this point we need to return to the original plank construction to introduce two other wallpaper artifacts. In the adjoining front room, 02, this same pattern was found, but some pattern matching in the room was jumbled. At first, it seemed to researchers that the ravages of time had made the documents hard to read. And yet, little by little, another pattern, also grey and white, and also a foliate type, asserted itself. With patience (and some modern forensic tools) Michael Davis at Leavengood Architects traced out an entirely different pattern installed alongside the first. Two photos (middle and bottom) of the second pattern from the report along with a description are given below:

This pattern (called Pattern 02 in order to distinguish it from Pattern 01, the scrollwork paper) appears to depict a pomegranate or similar large fruit with large petals and blossoms, somewhat naive in rendering, with correspondingly large light-colored rough branches here and there in the pattern, which link up the floral.

The example of Pattern 02 in the bottom photo looks far more deteriorated than the example of Pattern 02 in the middle photo — and yet they are the same pattern. Pattern 02, which could be called an irregular damask, was not examined by this writer, but it is probably another blockprint. This attribution is based on a reported sheen in the background of the paper, indicating a polished ground, as well as on the pattern's similarity in color and design to Pattern 01.

A remarkable discovery, as documented in the middle photo, is that Patterns 01 and Pattern 02 were installed side-by-side. They were not just installed in separate rooms and happened to meet under some long lost partition. On the contrary, they seem to have been installed in media res, as if one strip of Pattern 01 was hung and then followed immediately by a strip of Pattern 02. Since both patterns run the full length of the wall there seems to be no other explanation.

From the report:

. . . buyers at retail stores in the far West were able to buy wallpaper. However, in many cases, the amounts of wallpaper were not always adequate. Complicating factors were a.) the distance involved from the production sources back east, and b.) the fact that a local retailer had to guess how many rolls to purchase from a supplier. Retailers also had to guess about which styles would sell. . . it is quite plausible that the Pattern 02 that we see overlapping the Pattern 01 was chosen in order to fill out a room lot. And, that this particular seam was where the switch between papers took place.
There are two additional reasons supporting this scenario. One, the tone, style, color and so on are so very similar. Two, the Pattern 01 (on right in digital photo) is pieced horizontally. It is likely that the paperhangers were running out of paper, and forced to make mismatches in order to complete the strips. In other digital photos of Pattern 02 (in Room 3) there are also examples of mismatches. It would seem that this was done not out of ignorance, but because the paper supply for the room was known to be short, and such shortcuts and emergency measures were necessary in order to finish the room.

The third wallpaper artifact is a fabric underlayment (3. linen layer) in Room 02, here described as linen, though the product goes by many names. This close-woven and strong material retains slubs (bumps) in the weave. It was found on top of pomegranate Pattern 02. It supported a "watered silk pattern", which unfortunately cannot be easily dated. The watered silk pattern seems to belong to either the Military Era (1859-74) or the early Agricultural era (1875-1900).  Of more significance is that a radical change had been made to the plank wall before the installation of the fabric. The battens had been removed.

underlayment and "watered silk" pattern

This change provided a smoother wall for the fabric, which was soon followed by new layers of wallpaper. The change was almost certainly made to improve the appearance of the room; to lift it up from its rude plank structure toward a monolithic and therefore smoother surface. It may be significant that this minor upgrade was done not in the rear of the small house, but in the front. The underlayment was found in the room adjacent to the front room already improved with lathe and plaster.

c. wall and house context

We turn now from the artifacts to their context. Below are wallpaper stratification diagrams for two test locations. The paper-hangings and linen appear near the bottom. There is an archaeological quality to the diagrams prepared by Leavengood, as they march backwards from around 1955, the year that the family left the house.

The top layer, the "Scalloped Edge/Festooned Pattern Salmon Pink on Light Tan Ground" border overlaying the "Plaid - Two Colors on Medium Tan Background" sidewall paper, was still on the walls in 1955. The diagram follows several more layers of paper before gray fiberboard intervenes. Several more layers surmount the lathe and plaster before the rounded scrollwork pattern is reached. Finally, we arrive at the plank walls which established Camp Pickett.

Similarly, Diagram 4 below retraces a chronological journey from the installation of two borders on a green painted beaverboard and three more strata of wallpaper before the linen layer is reached. The earliest wallpaper sits on the painted planks at the bottom. 

It's difficult to render decorative layers in old houses and the difficulty increases with the house's age. Yet, these diagrams are good models. Not only are the layers labeled, they're clearly separated, making visual and logical sense. Another advantage is how color and texture are used to suggest qualities of the artifacts. Finally, using descriptors such as "Golden Floral Pattern w/ Silver Diamond Pattern" is practical, even if the terms may be open to interpretation. Naming patterns helps researchers keep track among a multitude of artifacts.

d. Western territories context

 Paper-hangings were a popular interior finish material for long stretches of the 19th and 20th century, but few remain in place. The investigation at the Officers' Quarters/farmhouse is important because it documents a rare survival. The interior finishes report supplies some context for the use of wallpaper in the Northwest Territories. By 1854, two San Francisco businesses, 

. . .  J.C. Bell (Upholstery and Paper Hangings) and A.C. Messerve & Co. (Upholstery, Paper Hangings and Dealer in Millinery Goods) published ads noting that they offered “A fine assortment of paper hangings” or had paper hangings “constantly on hand.” A review of Puget Sound directories indicates that by 1860  . . .  Mr. Gambitz had recently returned from San Francisco with an assortment of clothing and household goods including “paper hangings” as well as carpets, rugs and oil cloths. By 1863 at least three Victoria companies specialized in “Paper Hangings” – John Banks & Co. (a painter and glazier) and Fawcett & Co. (an upholstery business) and Stemmler & Co. Upholsterers and Paper Hangers. Thus, by 1863 wallpaper products were popularly in use and appear to have been readily available for purchase in nearby Victoria (shipped there from San Francisco) and installation at Camp San Juan.

We know from a manufacturer's diary kept by Bumstead & Co., Boston, that East Coast mills often sent agents westward during the 1850's.

In 1852, Bumstead wrote in his diary that "Mr. O. [Oliphant, one of his partners] just returned from the West + North (Canada)…everything in the West must be white - the satins must be white - the cheap 7 ct papers must be white without a speck of any thing but white…".  Oliphant's efforts must have paid off because a few months later Bumstead recorded an order from Oliphant for  ". . . 12 cases paper hangings on board the Fleetwood to Fratsert [?] Hitchins, San Francisco.  Amounting to 772.51, insurance 21.25 = 793.76." Orders like this added up. The next year Bumstead writes that "On his Hayden's recent trip West he had taken orders for 298,000 rolls - amounting to $33,000."

The interior finishes investigation shows how the rude dwellings of the West were adapted for finery arriving from the East. Of particular interest is the documentation of the removal of the battens before canvassing. How many other rooms were improved in this way?

The fabric found at Pickett's Camp is sometimes called hessian, burlap, canvas, muslin, jute, or hemp. The heritage industries in Australia and New Zealand have long been aware of this transfer of material culture from England. In the mother country, underlayments for leather and fabric were common before 1700. The same transfer of material and methods took place in Haiti and other Caribbean islands, where settlers decorated with fabric underlayments commonly used in France. Denmark, too, was a precursor, for on a Danish sugar plantation in the 1830's (Kathrineberg, on St. Thomas), stretched and tacked canvas supported plain paper throughout. The paper was then decorated with earthy hues of plain distemper paint. Other fabric was used during the 1849 Gold Rush, when miner's cabins (probably the better types) were canvassed before wallpaper went up.

What was the purpose of the fabric? As we've seen, fabric smoothed the wall, but it did more. If wallpaper was pasted directly to wood in a hot climate, it was likely to split because of seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood. The slight air space resulting from stretching and tacking fabric prior to installation avoided this fate. Air spaces (especially deeper ones that resulted from tacking the fabric to firring strips) aided ventilation and discouraged insects. But, even if the fabric was tacked directly to planks, it stabilized the wallpaper, improving its appearance and longevity.

Previous layers were often left in place before repapering, resulting in thick "wallpaper sandwiches."  Restorers of primitive buildings have learned to watch for a most inexpensive and common alternative to fabric underlayments — newspapers. That these newspapers help researchers date the structure and the decorative changes in the lives of the inhabitants is obvious. Less obvious is the answer to another question: were multiple layers of newspaper, fabric and new wallpaper consciously used as a crude form of insulation?

e. paper-hangings context

It's not hard to find images of mid-19th century foliate wallpapers like those of Patterns 01 and 02. A book of European documents (Odile Nouvel, Wallpapers of France 1800-1850, Rizzoli, 1981) shows similar patterns dating from 1841 (fig. 131), 1845-50 (fig. 135), and 1845-50 (fig. 137). All are blockprints, and the first two are satin grounds. Another example turns up in the background of a charming folk art oil painting: Cats and Kittens, (c. 1872-3, National Gallery of Art). These sedate grey and white or ton-sur-ton types projected cool sophistication and were popular. They seem mainly French in origin. They were quickly copied by native paperstainers for a burgeoning middle-class American market.

The cost of wallpaper as it moved West is not well established, and yet documentation hints at how much Patterns 01 and 02 may have cost. The records of the National Park Service show that in 1847 wallpaper purchased around the time of the construction of a house by John Dominis in Hawaii included:

• 28 rolls of paper hangings #2063 at 70 cents
• 32 rolls of paper hangings #1280 at 42 cents
• 26 rolls of paper hangings #4628 at 70 cents
• 20 rolls of paper hangings #4567 at 28 cents.

Dominis was a ship's captain, and a Boston native. After he married the Queen, the house would be known as Washington Place. The large number of rolls in the entries above suggests that Dominis may have been re-selling the wallpaper as well as using some for his own home. Bumstead's diaries also list paper-hangings with four-digit codes: for example, patterns were recorded labeled "3322", "3026"  and "4213" in 1841; and "2340" and "2342" in 1849. All were French papers.

If there seems a large gap between the prices of Dominis' papers, which ranged from 28 to 70 cents, and Bumstead's reference to his "cheap 7 ct paper" in 1852, it is partially explained by two trade conventions. First, Bumstead was recording wholesale costs in his diary, not selling costs; and secondly, a higher price was applied whenever the paper changed hands, from France to Boston to points west. For example, records at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum show that in 1857, 100 rolls of "# 9407 Satin Wallpaper" were sold by the Croton Manufacturing Company of New York to distributor Henry Corbett of Portland for 28 cents a roll.

Corbett's records show that he sold 34 rolls of "# 9407" to Reid & Hughes (almost certainly a local retailer) for 50 cents a roll. No doubt the consumer who bought a room lot of 6 or 8 rolls from Reid & Hughes paid yet more for # 9407.

It's not clear what the future holds for Patterns 01 and 02 at the Officers' Quarters. However, the report makes the following suggestion:

 . . . [that] all (or substantial portions) of the high quality lavender/grey/off-white, block-printed paper that is encapsulated in Room 1 ought to be further uncovered, conserved and preserved in situ. It is an intrinsic part of the military era history and its conservation would provide an unusual opportunity to preserve and interpret a unique c.1863 wallpaper type and installation.


f. the "Pig War" is resolved

Now, what about that Pig War?

It's true that Lyman Cutlar shot Charles Griffin's pig, but it's also true that the shooting was for just cause – unauthorized potato eating. The real problem was that Cutlar (an American settler) and Griffin (an employee of the British-owned Hudson Bay Company) couldn't agree on the value of the pig. Since both men appealed to higher authorities, and since the ownership of the island had never been established, their respective nationalities put the matter on a fateful course. Cutlar was accused of trespass and threatened with arrest by a British magistrate for simply living on the island. The American authorities soon received a petition from Cutlar and seventeen other settlers asking for military protection. The petition was accepted, and company D, 9th Infantry of the U. S. Army, led by Captain Pickett, arrived in San Juan on July 27, 1859.

Meanwhile, the British governor moved to expel all American settlers, not just Cutlar.  The Pig War was on. Though the confrontation grew from a small and almost ludicrous event, it was no small matter. Like the boundary negotiations which had dragged on from 1846 to 1859, the Pig War lasted more than a decade. At the height of tensions, 461 U. S. combatants with 14 cannons confronted 2,140 British seamen with 5 warships mounting 70 cannons.

Perhaps because they occupied an island which was no more than twenty miles long by six miles wide, the rivals found ways to coexist. They shared off-hour activities like horse racing, and even wheelbarrow racing during holidays, not to mention that perennial pastime of military men – hard drinking. The ownership of San Juan Island was finally decided in 1872, and the camps were disbanded in 1874. We could say that hostilities ceased, except that hostilities had never really started.

The only casualty of the war was the pig.

Acknowledgements, Sources and Further Reading:

This article would not have been possible without permissions from Jerald Weaver, Chief of Integrated Resources, San Juan Park. Also, thanks are due to Leavengood Architects/Krafft & Krafft Architecture/CRM for permission to quote from their "Interior Finishes Report, Officers' Quarters (HS-11) at American Camp, PMIS No. 132727." The report (which included my comments as wallpaper consultant) was produced for the National Park Service, San Juan Island National Historical Park, on Nov. 11, 2011. It is based in part on previous work for the NPS by Harold LaFleur (1977) and by Heath, Walters and Lemchen (2005). Michael Davis at Leavengood Architects deserves recognition for his innovative methods of investigating and cataloging the extant wallpaper.
Special thanks to those who helped me with the Corbett billing records on the West Coast: Amy Bowman (Oregon Historical Society), Uta Hussong-Christian (Oregon State) and Patricia Richards (University of the Pacific).
The image of San Juan Island and surrounding area is used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License and can be found at:
The Croton Manufacturing Company bill is from the Warshaw Collection at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum; the Henry Corbett Day Book is housed at the Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific; there is a copy of Josiah F. Bumstead's Factory and Store Memorandum, 1840-1868, with finding aid, in the archives of Historic New England in Boston.
The "Pig War" has been ably chronicled by Michael Vouri, Chief of Interpretation at San Juan National Historic Park; see especially The Pig War: Standoff At Griffin Bay (1999); an informative web page giving the highlights is at:

Copyright: © 2012 Robert M. Kelly. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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