Howell & Brothers billing Mr. Sterling, Dec. 1, 1863

1. "20" cents and "40" cents - borders cost more to hang than sidewalls. They were printed in multiple courses across the standard wallpaper widths. This is why we often see borders of around 10, 5, 3 and 1.5 inches. Once trimmed out, they required extra care in pasting and hanging. These installation prices follow Philadelphia traditions of a shilling and a half for sidewalls (.133 x 1.5 = .20) and twice that for borders.

The hanging charges are about 40% of the material cost. Sidewall installation charges from about 1840 to 1900 were often .16, .20 or .25 per roll, but wallpaper itself was another story. Innovations like woodpulp and improved machinery drove prices down to pennies a roll.

 

2. "Howell and Brothers" - John Howell, the patriarch of several long-lasting companies, supposedly arrived in Albany, N.Y. from England in 1813. In 1857 the Howell factory at 19th and Spruce was described as the largest in the U.S.

By 1863, Howell and Brothers was considered to be the dominant producer of higher-class goods such as satins. By 1867, the Howell factory was on Washington Avenue, covered two acres, and was producing some 50 million yards a year, according to an industrial history.

 

3. " Chestnut St," was the prime location for the Philadelphia trade. For example, O'Brien's business directory of 1838 lists eight paper-hangings companies, seven of which had storefronts there.

The building on Chestnut St. was called a "paper-hangings warehouse" but it more closely resembled a modern showroom, since it had an elegant marble front, was next to a jewelry and carpet store, and extended a long way back.

 

4. "Importers" - Importing was critical to the success of early 19th century companies. As late as the Civil War the Howell firms, along with other big-city companies, continued to import a certain amount of high-class goods such as decors, scenics and the like. But by 1867, the book " Philadelphia and Its Manufactures" estimated that wallpaper imports, overall, had dwindled to about 5%.

 

5. "$30.10 - 1.50 = $28.60" - this bill for purchases in November was sent out on the first of the month and paid promptly on Dec. 11; Mr. Sterling qualified for a 5% cash discount. Philadelphia was a city of many paper-hangings manufacturers. The phrase sometimes seen in early 19th century newspapers – "…paper-hanging at the Philadelphia prices…" – recognized that prices were "very regular" in the words of one manufacturer; another way to put it would be "price-fixing", or, in the parlance of the time, "the Combination." Not all paper-hangings dealers went along with it, but most of the half-dozen or so major factories seem to have indulged.