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Wallpaper to Decorate your Home


By Research / Library Coordinator, Warren Clubb
October 16, 2013

“Your Colorful, Scenic Kitchen” by Sunworthy; from Eaton’s Wallpapers 1948

Are you re-decorating your home or interested in the styles of the 1930, 1940s or 1950s?

Why not look through wallpaper catalogues for ideas? The Library of the Western Development Museum has a few wallpaper catalogues for you to examine.

From ca. 1930 we have a Sunworthy wallpaper catalogue from the J. H. Ashdown Hardware Co. Ltd. of Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton. Ashdown’s was a wholesale company from Winnipeg which sold from its own stores or through other hardware stores in towns throughout western Canada.

The catalogue is a portfolio of samples, measuring 46 by 46 cm. The samples are in colour. Some are torn; others are stained. But they give you an illustration of what wall coverings looked like in that period. The advertising slogan was that “no other furnishings in the home can equal the value of wallpaper.” There are over 40 samples to view plus a competitor’s sample to compare. The catalogue claimed that the competitor’s sample failed to possess “the light resisting qualities” and the “fine effects” of its Sunworthy Wallpapers (capitalization in the original). As well, the cost difference between Sunworthy and its rivals was “trifling.”

We also have wallpaper catalogues of the T. Eaton Co. in Winnipeg from 1941, 1943, 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1953.

"Beauty by the Roll"

Eaton's Wallpaper - Unusual GraceIn 1948, Eaton’s advertised its wallpapers as “Beauty by the Roll.” There were nearly 70 patterns in a 23 by 24 cm sample book. The samples are in colour and each sample was described in a phrase—“Something New in Dainty Pink,” and “A Show in Morning Glories,” are two examples. Trade names included “Sun-Tested” and “Sunworthy.”

Left: “A Downstairs Paper of Unusual Grace!” from Eaton’s Wallpapers 1941

Eaton's Wallpaper - Unusual Grace - DescriptionThe 1941 and 1943 catalogues come with blank order forms and helpful hints. It was easy to hang wallpaper—claimed the advertising—if you just followed the 6 steps outlined and used the proper tools and supplies, available from Eaton’s. Some of these included a 6 inch (15 cm) black bristle paste brush for $1.35 and 10 inch (25 cm) fiber bristle smoothing brush for 23 cents. You could also buy Renown sizing glue and Diamond paste powder.

Left: Description of the Unusual Grace sample from Eaton’s Wallpapers 1941
(click for larger view


Sizing glue was applied on new walls which had never been wallpapered. The size would prevent the plaster walls from absorbing the paste which would cause the paper to crack and peel.

Paste powder was applied to the reverse side of wallpaper with a paste brush, then the wallpaper was hung on the ceiling or wall. You used a smoothing brush to smooth the wallpaper as it was hanging on the wall before the paste dried.

To order the correct amount of wallpaper, you multiplied the number of feet around the room by the height of the room and divided by 30, the amount of square feet a single roll of wallpaper, to get the number of single rolls required to wallpaper the walls. For every two openings in a room—for example, a door and a window—you deducted one roll.

Wallpaper Catalogues at the WDM
George Shepherd Library

These wallpaper catalogues are part of the Library’s pamphlet collection of material and are kept in acid-free file folders inside acid-free document boxes. They do not see light until they are taken out and examined. We are preserving them for the researchers of today and tomorrow.

If you have an interest in these catalogues, call to make an appointment to see them. Click here for the Library's contact information.

“A Parade of Flowers” by Sunworthy; from Eaton’s Wallpapers 1948

"Harmony . . . Gold and Silver Colour on Grey”   Eaton’s Wallpapers 1953


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