Posted on | February 13, 2009 | 27 Comments
Along with paint, wallpaper and decorative plaster, another popular wall finish found in many late nineteenth and early twentieth century homes was the “indestructible wall covering” popularly known as Lincrusta-Walton.
Originally named “Linoleum Muralis” (linoleum for walls) by its English inventor Fredrick Walton in 1877, it became almost as favorite a treatment for walls as Walton’s first invention of Linoleum (1860) had already become for floors. The two materials were manufactured essentially the same way and with the same materials: a mixture of linseed oil, cork, resins, and pigment heated then pressed together by heavy rollers onto a canvas backing. Lincrusta-Walton (later known only as Lincrusta) was different in that it was embossed and could be hung onto walls like wallpaper. And like wallpaper, it was designed as fills, (examples below from the 1910 Journal of Decorative Art) as well as friezes and dados.
It could provide a hard, durable decorative surface in relief that imitated leather, carved wood or plaster and could then be painted, stained, glazed or gilded to the decorators taste, all at a fraction of the cost of the material it was “imitating”. It also had several other more practical advantages, being moisture resistant, “sanitary” (or washable) and, unlike plaster, it was resistant to cracking. And, as many homeowners with original installations can tell you also, the material gets harder with age.
Soon after its invention, Lincrusta could be found in homes, public and government buildings, railroad cars and even steamships, (including theTitanic).
The only real disadvantage to this innovative product was its weight. Later in 1887, Thomas Palmer, who had been working for Walton as a showroom manager, invented an embossed but lightweight hard paper pulp product that could also be finished in a myriad of ways and installed more easily as friezes and ceilings. He called his product “Anaglypta“, derived from two Greek words meaning “raised engraving”. Later this new product so impressed the judges at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900 that they awarded it two Gold Medals.
Today both Lincrusta and Anaglypta are still available in a wide array of patterns.