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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2003 > Traditional Methods Historic Effects

Traditional Methods Historic Effects

Adelphi Paper Hangings, an SPNEA licensee, produces exact replicas of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century wallpapers, using the same tools and processes as craftsmen of the past. The company's founder, Chris Ohrstrom, fell in love with the rich colors and lustrous quality of hand-printed papers when he began buying and restoring old houses. The patterns his company produces include English imports, French Directoire, and early American designs, taken from documented originals owned by SPNEA and other museums.

Img_02Adelphi's production process be-gins by gluing individual sheets of acid-free watercolor paper into a thirty-three-foot long strip. Next, craftsmen brush on the ground color and hang the strips from the ceiling to dry. The patterns are then printed, using one of Adelphi's two wood block presses-one an antique from the 1860s, the other a reproduction 1820s press. Paper width, scale, and colors closely match the original documents. The paints are water-based distemper: a mixture of whiting-either chalk or calcium carbonate-pigment, water, and a binder. The sole concession to modern technology is the use of lasers to burn the patterns into the wood blocks, a time-saving step that keeps the papers within an affordable range. Because craftsmen finish the blocks by hand, the final effect is the same as hand carving.

The opacity of the paints and the subtle variations that come from hand printing result in surface textures very close to period wallpapers. The firm's clients include historic house museums and homeowners who appreciate the effects that come from traditional methods. More than a half dozen patterns from SPNEA's wallpaper collection are available through Adelphi. Visitors may see recently installed Adelphi papers in two SPNEA properties-in Sally Otis's bedroom at the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston, and in the Boardman parlor vignette at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Newbury, Massachusetts.

-Carol Bruce
Director of Licensing & Merchandising

For more information, please visit, email, or call (540) 253-5367. To find out more about SPNEA's Historic New England collection of reproduction products, please call (617) 227-3957, ext. 237, or email

Traditional Methods Historic Effects