Manufacturer and builder 9, 1869
The strange packing-box structures that deform our streets - put up from necessity or cupidity, and dictated by poverty of insane or poverty of ideas, and often by both - have almost made us cease to regard the architect or builder as an artist in design, who contributes to the refinement of household life. In the grand houses of old, the carver was the artist, until wholesome wainscotings were disused. The decorative painters, who gave us the noble ceiling-pieces, such as grace Hampton Court, are all departed. The only household artists who remain now are the paper-stainers, who every year attain to greater perfection and influence. In every mansion, house, and but in the land, the work of the paper-stainer now confronts the inhabitant. If a man is poor, he puts up with the paper lie finds upon his wall - he can not help himself; if he is indifferent, lie does not care what he looks at; if he is without artistic taste, he does not know what lie looks at. But if he have taste and means, he speedily consults the paper-hanger, and makes a choice for himself. It matters very much to a man of taste what lie looks at every day of his life and every time his eyes fall upon his walls. It matters to his wife and family; it affects their taste and pleasure. It matters to his furniture; some kinds of paper kill furniture. It matters to his pictures; some kinds of paper ruin pictures, others show up pictures - and frames as things of beauty. Some papers, like some carpets, are alive; the patterns crawl over floor and walls, and the aching, care-worn eye never gets a moment's repose. Some designs are insipid to nausea, or monstrous to disgust, or flaring to vulgarity, and worse by far than the honest, modest whitewashed wall. Thus the paper-stainer has become our only household artist, and can, by the beauty and refinement of his designs, add in-definitely to the pleasure and cultivation of the house-hold interior.
A great seat of the paper-staining trade is Manchester. As you pass along the Hyde Road, where the Cobden, Peel, Bright, Fox, and Wesley streets abound - modern names of honor being used instead of the insipid names of insipid people who have grown rich without ever becoming wise, or who, as Mr. Bright said lately at Birmingham, "came in with the Conqueror, and never did any thing else" - in the neighborhood where these streets abound, stretches an enormous brick erection, the Hyde Road Paper-staining Works, which commenced in 1844. At this time, it took one whole year to print the same quantity which in 1362 this establishment printed in nine days. The change has been owing to the invention of machinery. One of the greatest difficulties was to get softness and mellowness of effect in the flowers on the paper; and to obtain this, more tints required to be employed. This necessity caused their attention to be directed to making machines to print more than six colors. The Uncertainty of the old mode of fitting was a great objection. The difficulties which artists and mechanicians alike pronounced insuperable were effectually overcome, and a machine was produced which printed twenty colors and attained precision in fitting and economy of space at the same time. Aiming at excellence rather than low price, the modes of production were gradually improved, until scarcely any pattern or style can be pronounced impossible to be produced by machinery.
The pleasures of home are greatly enhanced by being surrounded with pleasing objects; and what adds more to the aspect of general comfort than a tasteful, harmoniously-colored paper on the walls? Logically speaking, then, the tastes and habits of the working classes must have been improved to a considerable extent by this introduction of cheap paper-hangings to ornament their dwellings. Again, in a politico-economical point of view, the general public have gained. Machinery in this, as in many other cases, has created, or rather developed an industry; and if the number of persons employed in this trade, and those employed in trades such as paper-making and color manufacturing solely for the purpose of paper-hangings, could be ascertained, the number would be astonishing. The mines of Cornwall and Wales, the shores of the Mediterranean, the insects and dyewoods of Central America, are all made to administer to the wants of this trade.
It would be too long here to describe the nature of that curious machinery which prints with unerring accuracy, and without mixture or confusion, twenty colors at one time. The length of the piece of paper thus operated upon is, in the language of Dominic Sampson, "prodigious." It stretches itself a distance as far as the eye can take in through hot chambers, that it may dry, as it passes to another part of the spacious premises, to be ready for another operation.
The perfection of modern machinery enables us to make our paper-hangings at once tasteful and cheap. We do not attempt, nor do we need, for ordinary do-mestic purposes, those efforts of "high art " on wall-paper in which our French neighbors excel. We do not require those gorgeous or elaborate patterns which, at a short distance, can not be distinguished from tapestry; oven by the workman himself I These may be prized by, as they are suited to, the prince and the millionaire; but we may be well content wills supremacy in the production of a really good article, adapted rather for the million. At the same time, wo can afford to bestow a passing glance of admiration at hose more elaborate achievements, many of which were seen in the French Court at the Great Exhibition of 1862.
Some of the most costly of the French paper-hangings have a considerable portion of the pattern actually painted in by hand. For many of the less expensive but still highly artistic kinds, the lever system of printing is adopted; and the manner in which this process is conducted may be discerned at a glance, on reference to our engrating. The scene is a faithful representation of one of the workrooms in the celebrated French house of Messrs. Desfosse & Karth; and although the pressing down of a lever by a boy seated on its extreme end may be thought a somewhat rude and clumsy process in comparison with the ingenious and dexterous action of perfect mechanism, yet it is much in vogue, and held in high repute for the printing of involved and complicated patterns, in which the handicraft of the French workman has not yet been super-seded by machinery. In this systems, as in that of color-printing generally, of course only one portion of the pattern can be printed at a time, Like our own manufacturers, the French employ the cylindrical process for printing the less expensive kinds of paper-hangings, and in different departments of the establishment to which we have alluded all the known methods are carried on. To a certain extent, the chief French houses still take the lead in taste and elaboration; but they must yield the palm to the British and United States manufactures for simple excellence combined with economy.