By Carol Affleck, 2007

The Wise Homestead Museum reproduction wallpapers were replicated, in a process that spanned two years, by Bradbury and Bradbury Art Wallpapers. The project was initially undertaken by Bruce Bradbury, who made a personal visit to the Wise Homestead Museum during the restoration to examine the remaining historical wallpaper in the parlor and to review samples of the other historical wallpapers. During the project, Bruce Bradbury sold the company to Steve Bauer. Steve Bauer noted that the Wise Homestead wallpaper reproduction was a unique project, with never before used processes, due to the fact that it is impossible to produce paper today by exactly the same techniques that were employed historically. The papers for this special “little house on the prairie” project¬†were made with a combination of processes including digital press, rotary press and hand silk-screening techniques.

The replication of all the papers required artwork and screen separations. The digital printed papers also required a computer set up. The artwork, screen separations and computer set-ups were all accomplished by Steve Bauer.

Bed Room Wallpaper

Bedroom Erie Wise Homestead Museum - Erie, CO

Wise Homestead downstairs bedroom

This paper dates from the 1930’s and was reproduced from remnants of the latest paper remaining on the walls and ceiling of the room.

The wall fill reproduction paper stripe was printed on a rotary press by a company on the east coast. The reproduction ceiling paper was hand silk-screened on Bradbury’s 92-foot long tables. The reproduction colored border was printed on a large format digital printer. The wall fill paper and the ceiling paper both have a mica application.

(Mica is defined by Webster as “any of various colored or transparent mineral silicates crystallizing in monoclinic forms that readily separate into very thin leaves.”)

The mica mineral is ground into different particulate sizes that are still available from an old manufacturing company. The mica is floated in a clear oil base and applied to the paper with a silk screen technique. Steve noted that mica, as well as gold and silver, was applied to historic papers. For example, “gold” powders used for printing are made from tinted tin or aluminum chemically treated to resemble gold. Silver is made from pure aluminum powder. Therefore, printers must be cautious when mixing the solution to not breathe the dust. Some of the green metallics are no longer available due to the bombing of German factories in WWII. Other colored micas and golds are produced with analine, a dye.

The Kitchen Wallpaper

Wise Farmhouse Kitchen WallpaperThe kitchen wallpapers date to the 1930’s. They are typical American machine-printed papers of the era. This paper was replicated from remnants of the latest paper remaining in the kitchen.

The reproduction wall fill paper was produced on a large format digital printer, then the green mica was silk-screened over the printed paper. This involved a time-consuming labor intensive process of lining up registration marks, printed along the edge of the paper by the digital press, with the silk screen stops on thee 92-foot tables so that the silk screen stops on the 920foot tables so that the silk screen would be in the exact position to print the green mica over the design. The four 92-foot long tables have movable stops that cause the screen to stop after each pattern repeat is printed. Hundreds of stops had to be reset before and after the silk-screening process to accommodate the special paper. The reproduction kitchen border was printed with the same process.

The reproduction ceiling paper was hand silk-screened with a mica design.

The Parlor Wallpaper

Dining Room Erie Wise Homestead Museum - Erie, CO

Wise Homestead dining

The parlor paper dates from approximately 1905.

The reproduction wall fill and the border were first printed on a large format digital printer and then the mica on the border and wall fill ribbons was hand silk-screened, using the same labor intensive process used for the kitchen papers, on the 92-foot long tables.

Steve Bauer researches historic papers by collecting old wallpaper books. Steve noted that wallpaper changed after WWII and the beginning of the Modernism era. There were few ceiling papers. Borders became smaller. With the development of drywall and inexpensive sheets of paneling, wallpaper fell out of favor with the masses. However, with the historic preservation movement, TV programs such as If Walls Could Talk and Restore America, and publications such as This Old House, wallpaper is once again being valued in restored homes and new homes as well.

(Source: Steve Bauer, personal interview, May 1, 2005, by Carol Affleck.)

Carol Affleck, of Affleck Builders Inc. worked with Bruce Bradbury and, later, Steve Bauer, after Steve purchased the Bradbury & Bradbury company, to facilitate the review of the design and color samples with the assistance of Rebecca Waugh, Sarah Wise, Alan Wise, and Mary Jane Foley. Carol preserved some of the original papers in place on the parlor walls in the “windows to the past” frames built by Bob Affleck. Carol also hand scissor cut the intricate edges of the parlor and the birthing room borders prior to the installation of the border papers. Terri Trapp of Trapp’s Wallpaper and Paint and her assistant hung all of the wallpapers.