All About: The Wallpaper History Review 2015

The Review from 2015 edited by Christine Woods is an overstuffed sandwich of wallpaper. 

It contains close to a hundred pages with an astonishing number of excellent color photos (140) and wonderful articles. The Review has been out for some time but news travels slowly in the wallpaper world. It is is based in the UK, only available through print subscription, and North American wallpaper is rarely encountered in its pages. Nevertheless, the content is rich and addicting.

Below, I am summarizing some of the most important articles from this 2015 issue.  This first photo is from "Matching 'furnitures’ - Some Mid-18th Century Stencilled Wallpapers” by Andrew Bush. Bush, who works for the National Trust, explains how these simple check and plaid and stripe designs made the jump from textiles to wallpaper, sometimes because someone wanted to do up a single room and have them match (custom work) but also because they were so versatile and could be stocked. Most all of these are on ungrounded paper.

1. 200 Years Of Home Decor, by Linda Imhof
2. The American Taste For English “Regency” Stripes, by Philip Aitkens
3. Challenging Assumptions, by Andrew Bush
4. Regional Versus Metropolitan: The Provincial Wallpaper Trade, by Phillippa Mapes
5. Paul Balin, Master Of Illusion, by Astrid Arnold-Wegener 
6. Chinese Wallpaper, A Cultural Chameleon, by Anna Wu
7. Japanese Leather Paper, by Wivine Wailliez
8. A Spanish Odyssey, by Veronique de La Hougue

1. 200 Years Of Home Decor

The photo below could be titled “Date Me!” What year do you think it is from? Now bear in mind that this design features a round motif of raspberries in the middle of the circles. The color has faded terribly so that they now appear white…..but they used to be red.

This quiz introduces an interesting project: a regional study of a canton (state) smack in the middle of Switzerland. Two hundred or so wallpapers were catalogued by freelance art historian Linda Imhof. She did this work in conjunction with her MA thesis to obtain her degree. The wallpapers came from 8 buildings in the Swiss canton of Zug. Two dwellings were in Zug (also the name of the chief city of the canton), three were in rural areas, and three were clerical buildings. According to Imhof, wallpaper research is still young in Switzerland; it started in around 1990.
Her questions focussed on: 1. identification of manufacturing technique and dating of each paper; 2. recording where and how the papers were hung in the houses; and 3. comparison of the use of the papers in the three groups of houses.
The stone city houses are old. Somewhat astonishing to this American, one dates from the 16th century and the other from the 17th. A few blockprints from around 1790 were found; in some cases wallpaper sandwiches of up to 5 or 6 layers as well. These latter were from roughly 1880 to 1960, so a wide range of style and materials were evident.
Not surprisingly, most of the wallpapers hung in the rural areas were cheap. Many ungrounded papers were found. One house in particular was a treasure chest and gave up 66 papers, of which only two were blockprints. These three houses in the country were made of wood. They have since been torn down.
The houses for clerics yielded some upscale papers, and in particular the so-called Biedermeier period is well-represented. Most all of these papers were block-printed. Imhof rounds out her paper with sections on “several options for hanging wallpaper”, “reusing wallpaper leftovers”, and “repapering”. Imhoff found that the type of paper, i. e., whether it was composed of earlier rag paper or the later and cheaper pulp machine-made paper, had a decisive impact on the condition of surviving wallpapers.

2. The American Taste For English “Regency” Stripes 

This is a marvelous exercise in close visual analysis. It considers the question: “How did American paper stainers and their customers move away from imported English designs as independent taste developed in the USA during the early 19th century?”. This article compares three versions of a design that apparently originated in London in about 1800. It was copied closely (but not completely) by Zechariah Mills of Hartford. The design was then adapted in a simpler version by Mills for a paper that was used to line a trunk (shown in “Wallpaper In America” (1980) by Lynn, p. 114).

Aitkens, an English historic building consultant who has a collection of about 500 18th and 19th century wallpaper fragments (!) corresponded with Richard Nylander of Historic New England who shared his unpublished research into the Cadwell House wallpaper in Connecticut. Aitkens reports that his own collection contains not a single striped pattern and ventures a question: could it be that although English custom favored stripes in the 1770s and 80s (among other types) that English paperstainers began “turning away from stripes for a while during the years around 1800”? 

On the other hand, it seems that the USA was not turning away. One can point to the Janes & Bolles (also of Hartford) sample book of 1821-29, which was full of stripes. Although the topic is debatable, Aitkens wonders whether we should be leaning toward emphasizing “late-Regency stripes” in England rather than simply “Regency stripes”.

3. Challenging Assumptions

The article centers on a group of six wallpapers covering notebooks dating from 1733-44. The steps in their production: 1. grounding paper; 2. applying opaque stencil designs; 3. applying a block printed outline; 4. applying a transparent colored glaze. All of this was done by utilizing a registration system.

Bush explains that most wallpaper in the UK from the mid-18th century onward had a registration system of pins in the leading corner of a woodblock and/or bars printed alongside the wallpaper pattern. But not these. Although to our eyes these designs might look somewhat primitive compared to what was to follow, nevertheless, the number of individual processes required for these early examples led to the need for a registration system to help with alignment. 

Note figure 5 (reproduced here). This photo shows edge details from six sheets of wallpaper, and indicates how the registration system worked. The colored squares within the red circles are a result of color being brushed through cut-outs on both sides of consecutively applied stencils. Essentially, what looks like a “notch” (consisting of a square area) was created when the black outline from the woodblock was applied above and below the registration square.

These wallpapers are from the period of transition from individual decorative sheets with stand-alone patterns (like the domino papers of France and Italy, which have the black rectangle around a design, for instance) to a period when paper was joined and all patterns were expected to provide an endless design in both directions. Bush concludes that “the seamless nature of these later continuous patterns required the development of the pin and bar registration aids, and it seems that the earlier system described above faded into obscurity.”

4. Regional Versus Metropolitan: The Provincial Wallpaper Trade 1750-1830

One of the really fine things that the Wallpaper History Society does is that they have a research grant program. One of the recipients, Ms. Mapes, is a paper conservator and has been looking into the trade history of wallpaper as part of her work toward a doctorate.

In this article, Mapes shows that the wallpaper trade enjoyed a period of expansion in the second half of the 18th and early 19th century as part of the economic boom and rise in population attributed to the Industrial Revolution. This enabled middle class consumers to spend more on newly developed consumer goods like wallpaper. Although the wallpaper trade was primarily based in London, Mapes has found a surprising amount of evidence for the migration of manufacturers to regional locations such as Ipswich, Bath, Bristol, Liverpool, York, and Manchester.

She not only traces the sheer evidence that they existed, but notes the various ways that consumer goods either flowed from the capital into the provinces, or vice versa. The way that pricing worked was complex. Mapes does a good job of sorting it out, for there were advantages to producing wallpaper in a city, and other advantages to being in the country. For example, country locations advertised that they could do custom work right away, as opposed to sending to London to have it done where it might take longer due to distances and complications.

The transportation network was often key. But, it was not that factories needed to be near raw materials, as in other trades. It was the mobility, and population concentrations enabled by the new canals and railroads, and the coastal cities, that were important for these regional factories. Even the Isle of Man had a factory, for their citizens were equally impatient for the latest fashions and were willing to patronize a new paperstainer in town, especially if he was employing London blockprinters, rather than wait for the opportunity to visit London to pay what were perceived as huge markups to decorators and upholders’ shops for the privilege of purchasing the wallpaper. 

By the time that heavy machinery arrived into the trade starting in around 1830, these regional centers had grown and were in a position to compete more directly with London, especially since the London paperstaining industry had itself been weakened by a shift in fashionable focus from London to Paris, which had happened in the first few decades of the 19th century. 

5. Paul Balin, Master Of Illusion

This overview of Paul Balin’s career can be seen as a sort of introduction to the 2016 summer show at the German wallpaper museum in Kassel and even more as a sort of teaser for the gorgeous book that resulted from the exhibition: “Schöner schein : Luxustapeten des Historismus von Paul Balin”. 

The book combines the work of a half-dozen wallpaper scholars in telling the story of Paul Balin, a very gifted but somewhat eccentric wallpaper manufacturer who started in the Defosse workshops in 1861 and proceeded to invent and create (along with litigating against and exasperating his competitors) for the next 40 years or so. Of special interest is the “wallpaper affair” in which his litigation threatened to grind the high-end industry to a halt for several years while patent disputes about embossing and finishing machines were resolved, not only in France but in several other countries. Zuber, among other companies, was deeply affected. He seems to  have won most of his cases but certainly did not leave many fond memories behind among his competitors. He was an excellent networker and social butterfly and no doubt would have had an iPhone and a well-used Twitter account in our times. His crowning glory was the 1873 World’s Fair in Vienna where his productions met with acclaim. Subsequently he was able to finagle his way into state recommendations, honors, and awards. In short, he aspired to be a “thought leader” in the luxury trade and succeeded. 

Ms. Arnold-Wegener tells the inside story about how the documentation, some of it discovered quite recently, was gathered, and how the show came together. Of special interest is her explanation of how Balin worked. He was genuinely obsessed with his work, which cannot be understood without the repeated invocation of “historicism” — in other words, the constant quest for finding new processes to carry forward the craft of earlier generations. He was a genuine aesthete but he was nevertheless sometimes accused of a backwards fussiness. It is said that he particularly loathed Art Nouveau as "degenerate art" that he would never engage with or promote.

In these photos, we can see how Balin, a master marketer, took a single pattern from a gilt leather panel (the so-called Peacock pattern) and reinterpreted it in a bronze paper; as well as a leather paper; as well as a chintz blockprint. The last one named has brilliant coloring and was produced as "A" and "B" rolls. This was probably necessary because the usual width of the paper rolls (about 18") would hold only about half the horizontal repeat; it is likely that the original embossed gilt leather was fairly wide.

6. Chinese Wallpaper, A Cultural Chameleon

Wu is an academic expert on Chinese wallpaper and has developed good connections to China where she has done some innovative research and also visited certain high-style hotels and private clubs where contemporary Chinese wallpaper is on display.

In this piece she sets out to tell a comprehensive story of how Chinese wallpaper has remained an exotic presence, a highly-polished craft, and yet at the same time a commodity over the last several hundred years, resulting in worldwide popularity. What makes this piece fresh is that she links up the several traditions of Chinese wallpaper (East and West) and then follows its fortunes  through the many historical twists and turns of the 19th and 20th century, and does not neglect todays wallpaper scene.

As to the blending, for example, it was not only Chinese pictorial traditions and scroll legacies that resulted in Chinese wallpaper, but also the Western ideas of perspective and indeed, the very idea of market-driven and portable “paper-hangings” that were the essential European contribution. She explains her theme: “through an examination of specific designs and use contexts this essay explores some of the contrasting identities of Chinese wallpaper in order to reveal their broader significance, dynamic and multivalent character and the rich variety of cultural ideas contained within them.” 

Her explanation for how Chinese wallpaper became fused with the ideal and idea of the English country house is not exactly new, but it has seldom been stated so clearly. She writes that “Chinese wallpapers are also a regular feature in lifestyle magazines such as Country Life, which, since its foundation in 1897, has featured an article on a country house in every issue, alongside articles on art, architecture gardens and countryside issues. In this context, images of Chinese wallpaper instantly communicate strong visual messages about social and familial connections, heritage, wealth and history: concepts which define the “country house” and underpin the magazines ethos and reader’s aspirations.

She concludes that “the richness of the design presented on them and the stories and traditions which surround them have allowed generations of consumers and viewers to project their own ideas, fantasies, personal histories and aspiration onto Chinese wallpaper, establishing several contrasting identities for this rarefied global design phenomenon.”

7. Japanese Leather Paper Or Kinkarakawakami: An Overview From The 17th Century To The Japonist Hangings By Rottmann & Co.”

One of the things you learn right off the bat from Wivine's article is that the origin of the rather impossible-looking name of Kinkarakawakami makes perfect sense. 

kin = gilt 
kara = foreign 
kawa = leather
kami = paper

Therefore, kin-kara-kawa-kami means “gilt foreign leather paper”. This article is like Anna Wu's in that we get a head-spinning overview of how leather papers started in the East, came West, were influenced by Western design, moved back East, picked up more Eastern influence, and then headed back to be sold in the West. Or something like that.

In this particular article Wailliez pivots nicely from his usual chemical and technical work, at which he is a master, in order to explain why we should care about kinkarakawakami (Japanese Leather Paper) and why this industrialized art form has endured. Reproduced here is a plate which shows the essential steps: beating wet paper onto the embossing rollers; gilding; stenciling; and applying other finishes.

This is an extraordinarily well-sourced article (67 footnotes) and includes dozens of references to important 19th century magazines such as Decorator and Furnisher and The Furniture Gazette, but also hard to find books such as Felix Regamey’s “Japon” (1903) and Alcock’s “Art and Art Industries in Japan” (1878).

Like early Chinese wallpaper, and dominos, Japanese embossed papers were generally made in a single sheet when they were introduced at large expositions. A key arrival was at Paris in 1873 where they caused quite a commotion. Later they were produced in longer rolls, like most wallpaper. Wailliez divides their history into three phases:

1. 1873-1884: many of these smaller pieces had an oily smell and had distinctly Japanese designs, not all of which were acceptable to a European market. They were therefore often used to put into the panels and coves of furniture, for example that of Godwin.

2. Starting in about 1882 a Rottman, Strome & Co. factory opened in Yokohama. This company's public relations campaign touted their new Westernized designs as not only washable but also “…Japanese, but not too Japanese…” This reinvention and blending of designs resulted in an all-over character that most decorators and the public found acceptable.

3. The third phase went from about 1890-95 to 1905. Japanese Leather Paper became a mass-produced commodity. Design luminaries such as Walter Crane, working for Silver Studio, delivered designs, many in the “Modern English” (Art Nouveau) style. 

Wailliez, a conservator at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels, concludes that “Kinkarakawakami offers a synthesis in the conjunction of Western historicism and a Far Eastern renaissance resulting, paradoxically, in a form of modern industrial art.”

8. A Spanish Odyssey 
(A book review of “La Real Fábrica de Papeles Pintados de Madrid (1786-1836): Arte, artesanía e industria”, by Isadora Rose-de Viejo

This is the story of a royal manufactory of wallpaper. Not England, not France, but Spain. Spain? Spain.

What fascinates is that the de Villette family that obtained the rights to produce in Madrid (and obtained a monopoly on wallpaper production within 90 miles of that city) was based in France, and that the time period was early 19th century. And as we know, early 19th century French wallpaper was about as gorgeous as wallpaper ever became.

Another interesting detail is that the original proprietor after survived painstaking negotiations for years with the Spanish ambassador and various royalty happened to drop dead about a month before the final contract was to be signed. No problem, he had a brother, who signed the contract and set up shop. But then four years later he, too, dropped dead. No problem, there was a third brother. It was the third brother, Peter, who carried the factory into its heyday, roughly 1793 to 1829, and passed it down to his son, Segismundo Giroud de Villette. The life of the factory was about 50 years.

This is a Spanish language book, which of course presents a problem for English readers, but not an insurmountable one among wallpaper people, who are used to looking at pictures. Still, an English translation would be incredibly helpful in this particular case as it seems likely there are many references to the nuts and bolts of how, exactly, a wallpaper factory was set up during the late 18th century, what the working conditions were like, and what sort of product lines were offered. For example, part of the deal was that during set-up they were allowed to import 5,000 rolls of joined paper; they could also import the necessary raw materials such as pigments from France and Holland. Getting back to the product line, it would be interesting to know about not only the de luxe types, but also about the more moderate types which presumably were bought and sold as in most wallpaper factories. What we see in the pictures here are French-influenced and exquisite. Since the de Villettes had a license to import as well as produce it is not always clear which surviving papers were actually made in Spain. 

One tiny detail of the social history is touched on when we learn that 12 local homeless orphans were hired by the factory as part of the deal. No doubt they took the lowest rungs of the work such as tier boys, hanging-up, and rolling up.


So there! I hope you enjoy this preview about this excellent 2015 edition of the Review!

Having said all that, if you are seriously interested in wallpaper, you _need_ to subscribe. It’s as simple as that.

On the plus side, they have an arrangement on their web site to pay via Paypal. 

Like I said, if you are really serious about wallpaper, you really _need_ to do this. 

Go to the “subscribe” link, plop in “non-UK member, 30£” and fork over $38.72 via Paypal.

Decorating “The Pastures” of Philip Schuyler: High-style Wallpaper Choices c. 1760

1. Philip Schuyler

A nine-part series based on the "Invoice Of Sundries Sent To America" of Philip Schuyler

by Robert M. Kelly

I. Philip Schuyler And The Pastures
II. Halls, Staircases, And Entry Ways
III. Ware House Traditions: Subjects And Working Methods
IV. Jackson’s Influence: A Chronology 
V. Philip's Options: “architect” And Other Papers
VI. Two Outliers: Strawberry Hill’s Hallway And Kedleston’s Painted Breakfast Room
VII. Philip’s Choices
VIII. Cost Analysis and Conclusions
IX. Addendum: A Peek Ahead To “fresco papers”

In 1761 Philip Schuyler was in London choosing wallpaper for his mansion then under construction in Albany, New York. His choices flowed naturally from the culture of polite society in the Anglosphere of the mid-eighteenth century. This essay examines the decorative, architectural, and consumer culture which made his choices possible.
Just prior to Philip’s visit, Horace Walpole’s antiquarian friends exchanged information about consumption and connoisseurship which are relevant to the topic, even if their concerns were on the fringe of wallpaper commerce. Similarly, Robert Adam’s creation of painted paper-hangings at Kedleston invites oblique comparison to the wallpaper choices of Philip Schuyler.
The landscape paper-hangings that Philip chose were not only a cultural expression of the early modern era—they contributed to the advancement of that culture, not least because his choices were soon emulated by his kinsman Stephen Van Rensselaer II and Boston-area merchant Jeremiah Lee. The successful transfer of painted and printed landscape and architect papers to the North American colonies was an important precedent for the development of the U. S. wallpaper industry.
A graph of the costs of some of the paper-hangings discussed in this essay is presented in the conclusion. The addendum peeks ahead to changing fashions in paper-hangings for large hallways in the U. S. and ends with a look at early-nineteenth century “fresco papers,” a leading contender as heir to the tradition of formal paper-hangings in hallways.


Part I. Philip Schuyler And The Pastures

As the sun rose on a chilly late-February morning in 1761 twenty-eight year old Philip Schuyler looked uphill toward the site of his proposed mansion house. He glanced downhill where filigrees of ice decorated the banks of the broad Hudson River flowing south toward New York City. Though surrounded by frosted grasslands the cleared mansion site was a mere quarter-mile from the center of Albany, a fast-growing settlement of 4,000 souls. 

2. Schuyler Mansion, styled “The Pastures.”

From the mid-1750s to the mid-1760s Philip parlayed his successful military commands during the French and Indian War into a new and portentous occupation—that of a provincial politician. The stout brick walls of “The Pastures" were planned to anchor his inheritance of twenty-eight acres which had devolved from his forebears 24,000 acre share in the Saratoga patent. His estate would easily accommodate the gardens, Dutch barn, yellow coach house, and other outbuildings he deemed suitable to his stature. 

3. The immediate grounds of The Pastures in 1794.

But, on that chilly February morning in 1761, he did not yet know how he would decorate his entry hall. In a few more days Philip would be traveling down the Hudson River to the port of New York City (claimed as New Amsterdam by his Dutch forebears until 1664). He sailed for England on March 3, 1761 and returned on November 20, 1762. Those twenty-odd months were time enough to investigate his decorative options. It will take us far less.

It's possible that his excursions among the paper-hangings warehouses of Aldermanbury included visits to the shops of Edwards & Darby, Richard Masefield, and Thomas Bromwich. It is certain that he visited the shop of William Squire at the sign of the Three Tents and Lamb in the Poultry, for an invoice records that he purchased over £40 of Squire's high-style paper-hangings.[1]

4. Invoice Of Sundries Sent To America.

Nor was Philip the only man shopping for wallpaper in 1761. As we shall see, Thomas Gray, a friend of Horace Walpole, was haunting the same shops on behalf of his school chum Thomas Wharton. It's not impossible—strange thought— that Philip and Thomas Gray may have bumped into each other as they gazed overhead at the fluttering “Gothick” and “landskip” samples in the Aldermanbury shops. The character of these samples must have been influenced by the checkered career of a wallpaper impressario who made his mark in London over the previous ten years or so, a man by the name of John Battista Jackson. Jackson’s output, too, will be investigated here.

It seems that the main purpose of Philip's trip was to settle the financial affairs of his mentor, Colonel John Bradstreet. The ever-exasperating requirements of red tape meant that Philip had long stretches of down time. He made a side trip to Ireland to observe the construction of canals. This interest would blossom during Philip’s work on a precursor to the Erie Canal.[2]

The invoice's title page shown above listing Philip's wallpaper choices is the first page of many. Over £685 of fine British goods are accounted for. Philip took the opportunity to buy a crane-neck chariot which, with shipping, cost £95. This type of transport was for town and social use. The crane-neck consisted of two parallel iron rods bent to allow the front wheels to pass under them and thereby turn in tight quarters. He also picked up a backgammon table, a “spying glass,” and a case of drawing instruments.[3] 

The invoice was probably written by one not familiar with wallpaper. If so, this would explain such anomalies as writing “Tripoly's" for Trophies, “Caffy" for Caffoy, and “Nickolls” for nichework. Eighteenth-century wallpaper bills are rare but not unknown. What makes this one special is the division into known types: flocks, stucco papers, and papier-mâché, and that the centerpieces are the “10 paintings of ruins of Rome.” These last were modeled after paintings by Pannini and others, and embellished with rococo festoons, trophies, and borders.

5. Detail, “ruins of Rome” wallpaper at
the Jeremiah Lee House in Marblehead.
Since none of Philip's wallpaper survives, we know it only through his meticulous record-keeping—an appropriate trait for the right-hand man of a quartermaster (Colonel Bradstreet). Yet Philip’s choices were not made in a vacuum. In 1761, wallpaper was not yet being printed on the North American continent and there was little competition from other nations. Although France had a substantial industry, their paperstainers had only recently converted from single-sheet production to joined rolls. [4] As a result, the known wallpaper choices of colonial Americans are almost exclusively a continuation of British culture.

Accordingly, we address British custom: the architectural evolution of halls and entry ways, the decorative evolution of paper-hangings, and the traditions of cost and method within the warehouses visited by Philip.

The story of grisaille landscape papers in the period 1750-1770 cannot be told without acknowledging the influence of J. B. Jackson, the celebrated wood engraver who turned to paper-hangings production during the last phase of his career. [5] Finally, the categories of wallpaper—the “great variety” mentioned in countless ads— will be explored.

Philip Schuyler's choice of such dramatic subjects to decorate his colonial mansion in 1761 was the first of three significant American installations of this type, the other two following around 1768. There can be no doubt that these elaborate paper-hangings from the shop of William Squire must have resembled in some ways two surviving ensembles: the wallpapers in the entry halls and two upstairs rooms at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and those which were installed in the Van Rensselaer Manor House on the north side of Albany (The Pastures was on the south side). The Van Rensselaer Manor House wallpapers are now preserved in a period room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

6. Van Rensselaer Manor House wallpaper
 at the Metropolitan Museum.

7. Jeremiah Lee Mansion wallpaper.

As reported by David Skinner, the connection from Pannini’s paintings to the versions found in wallpaper shops was by no means straightforward. The celebrity of the oil paintings of Pannini and others was exploited by printmakers, who produced engravings based on them. These prints in turn were the models for the handpainted versions in distemper which began appearing in retail outlets around 1755. Ultimately, some of the landscapes were put into repeat: “The colonnades, tempietti and obelisks which provided the essential elements of Pannini’s paintings were, meanwhile, adapted as repeat patterns which would be printed on rolls and sold as wallpaper in the usual way.”[6]

As noted by Lynn in Wallpaper in America, though Squire seems a probable source for all three papers, he is not the only possible maker. She cites Richard Masefield, who provided “…Paintings of Landscapes, Festoons and Trophies, India Paper, Papier Machée, Ornaments, &c, and a Mock India Paper...” from his showroom shown below.

8. Trade Card of Richard Masefield, c. 1758.

The paper-hangings warehouse climate of 1752-62 can best be described as tumultuous. We know of the successful firms like Bromwich and Squire, but many others soon failed, sold out, or were taken over. For example, James Wheeley advertised in 1754 that he, like Squire, had recently acquired the prints from a rival's shop. [7]  

Philip Schuyler’s Invoice of Sundries Sent To America provokes a series of questions: why “ruins of Rome”? Why stucco frames? Why were these choices popular for hallways, in particular? How do they relate to most wallpaper in the period?  How about relative costs? What types of wallpapers were readily available at upholsterers’ shops and what types were commissioned?

Before we address those questions we return to their future setting, The Pastures of Philip Schuyler. Philip’s wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer, was described as a “lady of great beauty, shape and gentility.” She bore Philip fifteen children, one of which (Elizabeth) married Alexander Hamilton, who was fatally shot by Aaron Burr in 1804, the year of Philip’s death.[8] 

We don't know much about the Schuyler household, but we do know that Philip oversaw a busy clan and that he was a proper eighteenth-century gentleman. He read widely. He wore a powdered wig. He rose early each morning and led the family, including servants, in prayers. He habitually met his peers in an Albany tavern at noon but unlike his peers left after the meal and returned to The Pastures to receive guests. The yellow coach house with pleasure vehicles (phaeton and crane-neck chariot) was quite some distance from the house, which was the epicenter of the estate and often referred to as “the farm house.” 

At the same time that it anchored his estate, his house was a popular stop for visitors to Albany of a certain social class. The mansion “became a handsome home, a rather brilliant social center and visiting place for many distinguished guests, including Benjamin Franklin and Charles Carroll…Washington, Lafayette, Kosciusko, [and] Steuben…”[9] Oddly, it was also a "visiting place" of sorts for British General John Burgoyne, who was incarcerated there for some time after the fall of Saratoga. Burgoyne had fond memories of The Pastures.[10]

Like many of the long-settled Dutch families in the Hudson Valley, the Schuylers were land-rich. Philip seems to have had good business instincts. He ran another family estate upriver in Saratoga. There are indications that he was a man of style. Philip commissioned a portrait of his daughter Catherine playing a pianoforte, an instrument found in less than 1% of colonial homes in the late-eighteenth century. Of the thirty-two chairs he purchased between 1765 and 1793, half were mahogany.[11] Tench Tilghman, aide to Washington, observed that Schuyler “has a palace of a house and lives like a prince.”[12] Count Francesco dal Valme, a visitor to The Pastures in 1781, described it as “magnificent, as it is well-situated on a hill a quarter mile from the city…”[13] 

Over time, not least because of Philip’s military and political prominence, the cultural affinity of the household switched from England to France. According to researchers at the house, the Schuyler's made their home even more stylish for their aristocratic friends who fled the French Revolution. The Schuyler's also took steps to secure their farmland and make it attractive. The grounds of The Pastures around 1790 have been described as "laid out in all the elaborate art of French landscape gardening with here and there parterres, some of which are nicely lawned.”[14]

Philip employed a full-time gardener in 1790 and likely in many other years. According to the United States Census of 1790, there were five white males, three white females, and thirteen slaves living at The Pastures.[15] Thus it's likely that when receiving company the Schuyler household consisted of twenty-five or more. This number is only a fraction of the 100 to 200 people who belonged to the household of a peer or great prelate in the late middle-ages, but the idea of a great household was nevertheless being carried forward on American shores, an idea that was no less important (and probably better realized) in the homes of Stephen Van Renssaelaer II and Jeremiah Lee. We'll trace the evolution of the Great Hall in Part II of this series. Oddly, one of the permanent residents of The Pastures was Colonel Bradstreet. He stayed on for many years after his financial affairs had been settled by Philip.

It seems that inherited wealth drove manor-building in the Albany area. Stephen Van Rensselaer II was only twenty-three when he began planning the reconstruction of the Van Rensselaer Manor House.  As previously mentioned Philip was twenty-eight when he began building. In contrast, the self-made merchant Jeremiah Lee was all of forty-five before construction began in Marblehead. Nor did Philip scrimp when it came to constructing his house. Master carpenter John Gaborial was paid £453 12s. 6d. by Bradstreet on behalf of Schuyler.[16] By his own reckoning Schuyler spent £1,425 16s. on furnishing the house. Mayhew and Myers describe this as 'showering expense’.[17]

Philip’s choice of workmen influenced his close relative Van Rensselaer. Both William Waldron and Lucas Hooghkerk, Albany-area masons, were employed by Philip and then rehired by Van Rensselaer some years later. But not all labor was local. His master carpenter Gaborial was from the Boston area. His choice of employing Gaborial may have contributed to the rococo flourishes of The Pastures. As for the exterior, the Georgian style was not new to the colonies, but it was new to the Albany area.

A visiting British peer, Lord Gordon, found Albany to be "dull and ill-built" but had praise for The Pastures, noting that “…one Mr. P. Schuyler has a good house near [the Hudson River], lately built in a better Stile, than I have seen in America."[18] Nevertheless, the fronts of Georgian buildings in the colonies can look numbingly similar.
9. Present-day view of Schuyler Mansion.

10. Stenton near Philadelphia, c. 1730.

11. Fort Johnson, c. 1750.

12. Johnson Hall, c. 1763.
13. Van Rensselaer Manor, built in 1765,
 as it appeared c. 1790.

14. Jeremiah Lee Mansion, c. 1768.

A British scholar has claimed that two broad developments were responsible for a flowering of interior decoration in the mid-eighteenth century: 1. the invention of "design" in the period 1740-1760, and 2. a stagnation of exterior architectural forms.[19] 

Whatever the causes, one of the most visible mediums of this flowering in a literal sense was wallpaper, just then hitting its stride in England. It is hardly surprising, then, that at about this same time paper-hangings were being patronized by the gentry in the North American colonies. 


[1] The 4,000 souls of Albany are documented on p. 92, fn 29 of Judy Anderson's well-researched Glorious Splendor (Donning, 2011), a study of the wallpaper at the Lee Mansion. William Squire was a long-lived manufacturer and retailer. One William Haywood had the audacity to steal 38 rolls of freshly-printed paper-hangings from Squire’s shop in 1770. Worse (as Squire testified at in court) the rolls were worth 18s. each and Haywood was selling them for 7s. 6d. each. Haywood paid dearly. He was found guilty and transported. See for 17th January 1770.

[2] "Schuyler's leadership in the Western and Northern Inland Lock and Navigation Companies formed the basis of New York canal legislation and of the construction of an inland lock system that was the forerunner of the great Erie Canal." cited in HSR, p. 2 as from the introduction to "Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York, 1733-1777” (1964, Don Gerlach, University of Nebraska Press).

[3] HSR, pp. 14, 37.

[4] Robert Kelly, The Backstory of Wallpaper: Paper-Hangings 1650-1750 (WallpaperScholar.Com, 2013), pp. 23, 25, Appendix A, Table 2, “Ten Transactions from Daniel Henchman’s Shop”. Single-sheet production vs. joined rolls matters because single-sheet installations have not been recorded in either New England or New France, though they must have occurred. It’s possible that joined paper was preferred by colonists as soon as it became available.

[5] In 1754 Jackson authored An Essay on the Invention of Engraving and Printing in Chiaro Oscuro, as practised by Albert Durer, Hugo di Carpi, &c. and The Application of it to the Making Paper Hangings of Taste, Duration, and Elegance
Jackson’s Essay was forcefully written in a vacuum of better information. This helps to explain why the Essay cemented Jackson’s reputation as an important wallpaper manufacturer for the next 150 years. Edna Donnell’s article changed all that in 1932: 
"The Van Rensselaer Wall Paper and J. B. Jackson: A Study in Disassociation," by Edna Donnell, Metropolitan Museum Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb., 1932), pp. 76-108.

[6] David Skinner, Wallpaper In Ireland 1700-1900 (Churchill House Press, 2014), p. 55.

[7] Smith, p. 129. A helpful resource for delving into the mid-eighteenth century wallpaper trade is a thesis from Clare Taylor: "'Figured Paper for Hanging Rooms': The manufacture, design and consumption of wallpapers for English domestic interiors, c.1740-c.1800", available as a free download through the British Library at

[8] Anderson, p. 92, fn 39.

[9] Gerlach, pp. 39 - 42.

[10] He reported to the House of Commons in 1778 that " that [very elegant] house I remained during my whole stay in Albany, with a table with more than twenty covers for me and my friends, and every other possible demonstration of hospitality...". HSR, p. 29.

[11] As cited in “Historic Furnishings Report, Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site” (hereafter HFR) p. 22.

[12] Samuel Harrison, Memoir of Lieut. Col. Trench Tilghman, Secretary and aid to Washington together with an appendix, containing revolutionary journals and letters, hither to unpublished (Albany: M. Munsel, 1876), pp. 80-1, 92; as cited in HFR p. 11.

[13] As above.

[14] L. B. Proctor, "Historic Memories of the Old Schuyler Mansion"  p. 4, said to be (but not confirmed to be) a quotation from the Gentleman's Magazine (London, 1790), cited in HSR, p. 34.

[15] HFR, p. 18.

[16] HSR, p. 19.

[17] Edgar Mayhew and Minor Myers Jr., A Documentary History of American Interiors (New York: Scribner's, 1980), p. 54.

[18] Newton D. Mereness, ed., "Journal of Lord Adam Gordon, an Officer who travelled in America and the West Indies in 1764 and 1765,” in Travels in the American Colonies (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916), p. 417; cited on p. 14, HSR.

[19] Charles S. Smith, Eighteenth-Century Decoration (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1993), pp. 138, 143.

caption credits:

1. From Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1852) 1:38; retrieved February 24, 2016, from

2. Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1900, 5:433.

3. Historic Structure Report for Schuyler Mansion, New York State Parks And Recreation, 1977 (hereafter HSR), p. 34, from “Plan of the City of Albany” by Simeon DeWitt. The original is in the Library of Congress.

4. Courtesy of the New York State Parks Department. Attributed to the Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. The invoice for wallpaper must date prior to May, 1762 because another document from that month refers to it.

5. Anderson, p. 22; Marblehead Museum & Historical Society.

6. The current tone of the background is misleading. When paper conservator Marjorie Shelley examined the paper during the Met’s restoration efforts she found that a thick yellow calcimine wash had been applied, poorly, in the 1870s. The original background color had been a “thin but semi-opaque raw sienna/yellow ochre”. Shelley, “The Conservation of the Van Rensselaer Wallpaper,” JAIC 20(1981), p. 129.

7. Anderson, p. 22.

8. Text on trade card: "The Nobility &c, may be supplied on the best Terms, with all sorts of Paper Hangings, Paintings of Landscapes, Festoons and Trophies, India Paper, Papier Machée, Ornaments, &c, and a Mock India Paper, made after a method peculiar to himself, which surpasses every thing of the kind yet attempted and for Variety Beauty and Duration, equal to the Real India Paper. - / NB. Merchants & Dealers may be Supplied on the least notice & Lowest Prices.”, Museum Number D, 2.3231. Richard Masefield's successor at 427 The Strand was Joseph Knight; see Knight's trade card dated 1788 in the British Museum online catalog (Heal, 91.38). Another candidate for providing painted and printed paper-hangings is James Wheeley, active from at least 1754, when he took over the shop of Wagg & Garnett. Charles S. Smith dates the often-depicted James Wheeley Paper Hanging Warehouse trade card to c. 1760. 

9. New York State Parks.

11. Rebecca Killeen-Brown. 

12. Johnson Hall State Historic Site.

13. American Architect and Building News, Dec. 3, 1892. Measured and drawn by Gilbert F. Crump, Architect(s) showing the house as it existed c. 1790. Public Domain.


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