Courtesy BTHL

This post is part of a monthly series that explores the historical applications of building materials and systems through resources from the Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL), an online collection of AEC catalogs, brochures, trade publications, and more. The BTHL is a project of the Association for Preservation Technology, an international building preservation organization.

Used as wall decoration for centuries, wallpaper has been a popular option for decorating and updating interior spaces, with designs reflecting the tastes of the time. Here, the BTHL chronicles the evolution of wallpaper motifs and styles over the 20th century.

Thibaut’s Art Wall Papers, Richard H. Thibaut, New York, c. 1900
This short catalog advertised Thibaut's wallpaper as inexpensive but suitable for “high class designs.”

Ornamental Decoration, Thos. Parsons & Sons, London, 1908
This publication on decoration includes wallpaper and paint options for interior design styles ranging from Adamesque to Art Nouveau.

Wall Papers and Cretonnes, Hills, McLean & Haskins, Binghamton, N.Y., 1911
McLean & Haskins' cretonnes—decorative fabric used for drapery and upholstery—“have in every instance been designed by the same artist who created the wall paper, thus assuring perfect match both in pattern and coloring,” according to the publication.

1917 Home Decorations, Star Peerless Wall Paper Mills, Joliet, Ill., 1917
The 22 wallpapers in this catalog were selected from more than 800 patterns to “represent the newest and the best, suited to every taste.”

San-Kro-Mura Wall Decorations, Schmitz-Horning Co., Cleveland, c. 1920
The use of printed wallpaper panels to create murals was the specialty of Schmitz-Horning Co. Design options include medieval tapestries, modern tiles, and floral motifs.

Correct Wall Papers, Montgomery Ward & Co., Chicago, 1926
This catalog featured nearly 100 samples of ornamental wallpapers from more than 12 manufacturers that were selected to represent “the best of the season’s new designs—handsome, artistic patterns, yet conservative and suitable for the average American home.”

Eaton’s Wallpapers, T. Eaton Co., Toronto, 1938
This wallpaper catalog from Canadian department store chain Eaton contains more than 65 individual samples. The patterns range from traditional florals to a number of Art Deco and Art Moderne styles popular in the 1930s.

Re-Creating Old American Designs in Wall Paper, Nancy McClelland, New York, 1941
This catalog features modern reproductions of wallpaper patterns from early America historic houses. “Wallpapers of this type were good in our grandmother’s day, and they will be good for generation to come,” the publication claims.

Guaranteed Room Decoration with Harmony House Wall Coverings, Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago, 1954
This Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog contains 75 wallpaper samples featuring floral, geometric, and pictorial print panels. Names like “Pony Express,” ”Frontier,” “Air Express, ” and “Colonial Scene” help convey their design inspiration.

Schumacher's Taliesin Line of Decorative Fabrics and Wallpapers Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, F. Schumacher & Co., New York, c.1955
F. Schumacher & Co. commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright himself to produce designs for textiles and wallpapers. The results are primarily geometric designs including a series of brick patterns.

Fashions of Today, Gamble Stores, Chicago, 1963
This catalog contains 25 wallpaper designs that are mostly floral patterns, including those that evoke the Flower Power movement of the 1960s.