History as revealed by Wallpaper. Part 2.

Today I had a real thrill.

There are two radiators in the living room. It seemed like a good idea if they were temporarily removed so we could:

  • Scrape off the old wallpaper behind them
  • Repair the plaster as required.
  • Repaint or re-wallpaper.
  • Refinish the floors under.

And so it was done.

Behind the radiators was this fine mess:



Sigh. I was hoping for dazzling, mint-condition, 1894 wallpaper, and all I found was two layers of tattered post-1950 paper. One beige, and under, blue. Each is VERY dull. WHY did people bother with the expense of papering only to choose lifeless paper?


Feeling deflated and quite vexed, I started removing the boring paper.

But wait! What is that?

Could it be?

Was it possible?

Is that piece of paper peeking out from under the post-war paper…older???????

Could THAT be the 1894 original paper???????

My heart did a dance.



What I found under the post-WWII papers. Whoee! A classic damask pattern.



The paper is embossed. Can you see that?



The lilac background is, amazingly, quite animated. Can those really be dragonflies darting about?





Well, what a thrill! Of course, I am not exactly sure what I am seeing.

Am I looking at the original 1894 wallpaper?

Or paper from when the living room was re-papered in 1907?

The paper does not seem later.

Also, is there enough remaining to have it copied? Wouldn’t it be way cool to recreate it? I do love such endeavors.

Oh, I also found just a scrap of other paper:



The scrap. When was this installed? There is so little remaining that it seems impossible to know, but the colors make me think: 1920s. What do you think?


Well, who would think that having radiators temporarily removed could be so exciting!

NOTE: Obviously, I have an odd sense of what is exciting.



The paper behind the radiators will remain in place, where it has likely been for 120-years. The radiators will be re-installed, and how many decades will pass before they are removed again, only to have somebody in, say, 2067 exclaim: “Wow! Do you think this paper is from 1894?”

I will also a attach a note to the wall about my little 2014 adventure.


  1. Seth Hoffman on October 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Wow, that is an exciting discovery.

    I think a damask pattern could look very good with a modern decor too. I wonder if anyone makes an embossed pattern like that today (for a reasonable cost, anyway)?

  2. Stewart McLean on June 16, 2017 at 7:26 am

    If you want to save samples of old paper, what I did might work for you. I was stripping the wallpaper from my Federal townhouse by spraying with water in a cheap pump garden sprayer and scraping, when I realized that this was history that I was removing and I should try to save some. In order to better preserve the paper, I should have used distilled water, but I used tap. I did have some success in saving samples of most of the patterns. I went to the art supply store and bought acid free paper about poster size and wheat paste. I held the paper up to the section that I wanted to preserve, carefully marked the edges of the paper, put wheat paste on one side of the acid free paper, and applied it to the marked section of wall. After it stuck, I sprayed it down with the sprayer. When I pulled it off, I had a disaster of several layers. On try number two, I thoroughly wet the wallpaper before applying the paper with paste and pealed it off right away. Success! I got a whole section of the wallpaper pattern while leaving the layer below intact. The pattern repeat on the lower layer of paper below did not coincide with that of the pattern above so I carefully stripped enough more of the top paper to expose the lower, older pattern and repeated the process. Of course I now had these papers preserved wrong good down pasted to my acid free paper.

    In order to separate the layers to get the wallpaper alone, I watched a bunch of Youtube video on restoring prints, etchings, etc. I learned to get non-woven polyester in sheets. I put one sheet of poly in a bath of distilled water upon which I placed the glued up paper with the wallpaper side down. After letting it sit until lifting a corner of the acid free paper left the wallpaper in the bath, the two separated. I now had the wallpaper on its own, with the good side up. I put another piece of non-woven poly on top and carefully lifted out my prize. I was able to squeegee most of the water out of the paper while it was still between the pieces of poly. I then placed the wallpaper and poly layers between two layers of thick, uncolored felt on a flat glass table with a weighted sheet of glass on top until it was dry. The videos recommended plexi-glass above and below, but I had the glass table and spare glass on hand. I have it stored in a document drawer between pieces of acid free paper until I decide what to do with it. Of course I have only tried this on uncolored paper. If the paper had had water-soluble colors the process would need a rethink.

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