F. Schumacher & Co., one of the nation's oldest and most respected producers of fine textiles and wallpapers, recently announced a new line of historical wallpapers based on originals from the Popular and Applied Graphic Art Collections in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
Comparable to the firm's well-known Williamsburg collection, the Library of Congress collection will include 22 designs for wallpaper panels and borders. The wallcoverings reproduce a group deposited for copyright in Philadelphia between 1814 and 1816 by the firms of Virchaux and Co. and Thomas Hurley.
According to recent research by Paul Turner, a Stanford University professor completing a book on Joseph Ramee, the majority, if not all, of the papers were designed by the French emigre architect, who also provided the master plan for Union College during his brief but influential career in this country.
Produced in Philadelphia, but drawing upon Ramee's considerable talents and European training and experience, the Library's examples represent the finest and most sophisticated American wallpapers of the period.
As a part of the opening of its new showroom in the Washington Design Center, Schumacher held a news conference in September to introduce the Library of Congress collection. Thomas Burak, Schumacher's vice president and design director, detailed the painstaking process by which the company's design studio and printers have been working in cooperation with Library curators to assure the accuracy of the reproduction of the originals, which were not allowed to leave LC's premises.
C. Ford Peatross, senior curator of the architecture, design and engineering collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, gave an illustrated overview of related collections in the Prints and Photographs Division, including early photographs from the Historic American Buildings Survey, which record federal period wallpapers as they were originally installed.
The first time he saw the Library's wallpapers, over a decade ago, Mr. Peatross recognized their potential for reproduction. The Library's recent encouragement of such efforts to make its collections more widely available provided this opportunity, and he has guided the laborious process, including matching thousands of chips to every color in the papers.
Mr. Peatross is currently in charge of another project, to establish a Center for American Architecture, Design and Engineering in the Library, intended to bring further attention and support to its collections in these areas, estimated at more than 5 million items.
Two of these remarkable early American wallpapers were included the recent exhibition "The Classical Taste in America," organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art. If they could have remained unappreciated for so long, one wonders what other treasures are waiting to be brought to the public's eye.