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Sidewall (USA)

This is a sidewall. It was manufactured by M.H. Birge & Sons Co.. It is dated 1910–15 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is block-printed, glazed, embossed paper. It is a part of the Wallcoverings department.

Imitation leather papers are meticulous reproductions of the grain, patterns, and coloring of antique leathers. Although this sample was produced by M. H. Birge & Sons around 1910, high-end leather papers had been popular since the late 19th century, with a renewed interest during the Colonial Revival movement of the early 20th century.
Birge received many accolades for their imitation leather papers, and produced these papers in both historic and contemporary styling. They also worked in actual leather if requested by a client. Leather papers were expensive because they were a labor-intensive product. The papers were block printed, embossed, and then antiqued or glazed by hand with an oil color. The paper support required substantial weight to withstand the embossing process.
Along with imitation leathers, a wide variety of relief papers came into vogue in the late 19th century, including: Lincrusta-Walton, a heavy, sanitary, linoleum-like product; Anaglypta, a light and flexible embossed paper; Tynecastle Canvas, canvas pressed by hand onto wooden molds; and grasscloth, a paper of woven grasses. It was very fashionable at the time for walls to have a sense of depth. Relief wallcovering or ingrain papers were used instead of flat painted walls. Leather papers were produced in Japan, across Europe, and in the United States.
This paper depicts a repeating design printed in metallic silver and taupe on an iridescent blue ground. While this paper copies the look of the leather panels in terms of the graining, it is styled and colored to best express the spirit of the day and was designed for use in modern Mission or Arts and Crafts interiors.

This object was donated by Mary Kate Conrad. It is credited Gift of Mary Kate Conrad.

  • Leather, ca. 1700
  • leather, stamped, embossed, silvered, varnished.
  • Museum purchase through gift of Thomas Snell.
  • 1903-21-3

Its dimensions are

L x W x D: 96.5 x 55.9 cm (38 x 22 in.)

Cite this object as

Sidewall (USA); Manufactured by M.H. Birge & Sons Co. (United States); block-printed, glazed, embossed paper; L x W x D: 96.5 x 55.9 cm (38 x 22 in.); Gift of Mary Kate Conrad; 2012-14-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Sidewall (USA) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=4 December 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>