5 surprising facts about wallpaper
Did you know…
Wallpaper has a murderous past. Here are five surprising facts about wallpaper:
1. In 1710 a wallpaper tax entered the statute books. Queen Anne was on the throne then. She was famous for being transported everywhere in a Sedan chair as walking proved difficult due to her corpulence and painful gout. The purchase tax, was levied at one penny a square yard on printed and patterned wallpaper. Evasion of the tax was punishable by death. Queen Anne died in 1714 but the tax lived on through the reigns of George I, George II, George III and George IV.
2. German-born Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a vivid green colour in his laboratory in 1775; it became quite the rage for decorating.
3. Mechanisation of the manufacturing process enabled wallpaper to be produced on a roll and towards the end of the eighteenth century households at all levels of society could afford to decorate with colourful wallpapers.
4. Due to the instability of the chemical compounds used in the creation of Scheele’s green, and in the fixing of dyes generally, arsenical gas was emitted when wallpaper got damp. Debate about arsenic and its potential to harm began to surface in the eighteen hundreds but since it was used in everything from boiled sweets to dress fabrics it took many years before its harmful nature could be accepted, and then proven.
5. Wallpaper was responsible for widespread illness and many deaths. A Cambridgeshire farmer decorated a few rooms for his family. When they all began to feel unwell he removed every scrap of it without delay. His family enjoyed a miraculous recovery. But the torn and sweating remnants in the yard proved too tempting to the farm animals who ate them and died.
Thankfully today we can enjoy the colours and patterns of the past in the knowledge that wallpaper is perfectly safe to install in our homes.
(Image credits Cole & Son. Feature image – Royal Garden via Historic Royal Palaces. Second image – Palm jungle via houseology.)