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Sidewall, Britannia

This is a Sidewall. It is dated ca. 1770 and we acquired it in 2004. Its medium is block printed on handmade paper. It is a part of the Wallcoverings department.

The pillar and arch design is distinctly English in origin. This paper was found in an early Dutch home, now called Fort Crailo, which was probably built by Hendrick Van Rensselaer in 1705. Crailo is located on the upper Hudson River Valley close to Albany. The site is managed by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In 1762, Hendrick’s son John completely remodeled the house. The house was again remodeled in 1783. The paper was most likely installed during one of these renovations. It was in this house that the patriotic song “Yankee Doodle” was written. The earliest known version of this song dates to 1775.
Brittania has a repeat of almost 48 inches, just over half of which is shown in this example. The missing length is merely a repeat of the urn in the smaller arches. There is a small section of border attached to the upper left corner. Since the border is block-printed in a similar terra-cotta colorway, it is possible it was the original border used with this paper.
We do have another piece of this same design in our collection in another colorway. Also in the collection is an American knock-off (the same design printed in reverse) printed in Hartford, Connecticut, between 1794 and 1799. This paper would strengthen our holdings in 18th-century English wallpapers .

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Britannia in America.

This object was donated by The Mary Washington Colonial Chapter, NSDAR. It is credited Gift of The Mary Washington Colonial Chapter, NSDAR.

  • Frieze (France)
  • block-printed and stenciled on machine-made paper.
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt.
  • 1931-45-80

Its dimensions are

Overall: 66 x 50.8 cm (26 x 20 in.)

It is inscribed

Typed on label, mounted on front lower center: "A panel of wall-paper taken from Stone Manor House opposite Albany, NY. Erected in 1642 by Kilican van Rensselaer, the first patron of the colony of Rennsalaer's Wyck. Later known at Ft. Crailo and used as a garrison for British troops during Indian troubles."

Cite this object as

Sidewall, Britannia; England; block printed on handmade paper; Overall: 66 x 50.8 cm (26 x 20 in.); Gift of The Mary Washington Colonial Chapter, NSDAR; 2004-22-1

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Sidewall, Britannia |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=29 May 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>