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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by William S. Powell, 2006Wallpaper at the Rosedale Plantation in Mecklenburg County depicting children at play. Image courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.

Wallpaper, first known as "wall hanging," appeared in the New England colonies by 1700 and was available in the South by the 1740s. In 1758 plans were made to establish a new capital for North Carolina, to be named George City; the interior of the two-story "Dwelling-House" for the governor was to be plastered and "ornamented with Paper." This may be the earliest reference to wallpaper in North Carolina.

Wallpaper was advertised in the Virginia Gazette in 1766. The Joseph Hewes House in Edenton (ca. 1765) had a soft, gray-blue paper with foliage in deep, natural shades of green with flowers, a temple, and musical instruments in shades of rose, salmon, lavender, and blue. There are other instances of surviving wallpaper in North Carolina. One is found at Rosedale Plantation, built by Archibald Frew near Charlotte in 1815. The plantation has three rooms with paper of two block-printed designs about 21 by 18 inches. One design is of children at play, while the other depicts what appears to be a gravestone inscribed "A la Fidelite." Oak Lawn, also near Charlotte, dates from 1818, but its wallpaper depicting the voyage of Captain Cook was printed in France between 1804 and 1806.

Piece of English wallpaper circa 1770-1780. This fragment was used as a binder for the "Tryal Docket for the Court of Equity, Hillsborough District," at Hillsborough, N.C. during the 1780s.Reference:

Catherine Lynn, Wallpaper in America from the Seventeenth Century to World War I (1980).

Additional Resources:

The Cooper Union Museum. Wallpaper; a picture-book of examples in the collection of the Cooper Union Museum. New York. 1961.

Ackerman, Phyllis. Wallpaper, its History, Design and Use: with frontispiece in colour and numerous illustrations from photographs. London: William Heineman, Ltd. 1923.

Ward, George Whiteley. Wall Paper, its Origin, Development and Manufacture. London: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons. 1922.

Sanborn, Kate. Old Time Wall Papers: An Account of the Pictorial Papers on our Forefathers' Walls: With a Study of the Historical Development of Wall Paper Making and Decoration.  Greenwich, Conn.: Literary Collector Press. 1905.

Hunter, George Leland. Decorative Textiles. Philadelphia, Penn.: J.P. Lippincott Company. 1918.

Image Credits:

Rosedale Plantation wallpaper. Call no. N 71 9 284.  From the State Archives of North Carolina.

"WALLPAPER FRAGMENT, Accession #: H.1970.2.1." circa 1770-1780. The North Carolina Museum of History.