One more image from Diana Sperling's Mrs. Hurst Dancing, just because I love it and it shows wallpaper (see tags!).
Picturing a World
Blog post alert: Once again, wallpaper caught my eye, this time in a trade card for James Wheeley's London Paper Hanging Warehouse. The designs of the unrolled merchandise and the paper on the wall; the dress of the customers, the salesman, and his assistants; the chair and the cutting table—any of these might provide a detail for a story. And there many, many more such cards to be studied in Spitalfield Life's Trade Cards of Old London.
It's remarkable where any of them might lead. You can even obtain the will of James Wheeley if you want. And on the wallpaper trade itself, check out Shopping for Wallpaper at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Selling odd rolls of wallpaper on the street? Well, why not? Surplus manufactured goods always wind up somewhere. Still, this abject vendor from Costume of the Lower Orders of the Metropolis by Thomas Lord Busby brought me up short. How did she obtain her wares and who were the buyers? I still don't know, but a quick search led me to Eking out a living on the streets of Paris at a wonderful website to explore, Parisian Fields, and to A brief history of wallpaper at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Question: would you make the vendor your central character, or would one of your characters seek out cheap paper by going to a street market?
Worried about cultural appropriation? Then what to make of a Chinese wallpaper produced for an English market, hung by a Yorkshire aristocrat, and added to by extra birds cut out of her copy of John Jacob Audubon's extraordinary Birds of America (one of 200 printed)? I ran across the story in The Papered Wall and chased it further in The 19th-Century Lady Who Used Audubon's Birds for Wallpaper, which has a terrific five-minute YouTube about the room and its other commissioned East-Meets-West treasures. The room is also the topic of the Audubon Society's DIY for Aristocrats: Rare Audubon Prints Turned Into Fancy-Pants Wallpaper, which has a link to hi-rez images of Audubon's plates (including the Columbia Jay).