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Wallpaper and Abe Lincoln

Lincoln 2013

President’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Not because I get a day off work (I’m not a Federal employee:), but over the years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to do restoration work at the homes or museums of seven Presidents in and around the Washington, DC area – Washington, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.

I’ll be ro0ting for Lincoln at the Oscars, especially for set design. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in a behind the scenes video says Lincoln director Steven Spielberg was meticulous in recreating the Lincoln-era White House, carefully replicating its carpet, wallpaper and even the cubby holes in Lincoln’s desk.

Abe Lincoln White House

Recently, I worked at the Peterson House and Ford’s Theatre (in the booth where Lincoln was shot). Spielberg’s set designers did a great job recreating these historical rooms on screen. They were lucky to have photographs to recreate the wallpaper designs. I am trying to locate which manufacturing recreated the paper for the movie. As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. If you know, please post a comment.  In the meantime, here’s a short video I created about working at the Peterson House, the house where Lincoln died in Washington, DC across from Ford’s Theatre.

12 comments… add one
  • Eric James February 18, 2013, 5:54 pm

    I recall as a boy visiting the Lincoln home in Springfield, IL. I was overwhelmed by the exuberance of the wallpaper, which the docent informed us was historically accurate. My hunch is Mary Todd Lincoln selected those papers not only on the basis of fashion, but also to relive Mr. Lincoln’s bouts of depression.

    • Patrick Shields February 18, 2013, 8:15 pm

      The Golden Age of American wallpaper began in the 1860’s with introduction of machine printed continuos roll wallpaper and lasted until the start of WW II .

      Mary Todd Lincoln of course would have the most modern and stylish paper in the White House.

  • Barry Lawson February 19, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Don’t know about the wallpaper but thought the room settings and acting were spot on. Great film.

  • Shannon February 19, 2013, 7:10 pm

    Thank you for this article Patrick. My friend, Todd Lovett, worked on those wallpapers! I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched the movie knowing that my friend had a hand in such magnificent sets. I contacted him as I can’t remember the name of the company he contracts with for this work. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back! He’s an amazing talent like you.

    Stay tuned,
    Shannon

    • Patrick February 19, 2013, 8:16 pm

      Shannon, thanks!

  • Todd Lovett February 19, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Hi Patrick, this post was forwarded to me. I happen to be one of the artists that helped recreate a few of the wallpapers that were used in “Lincoln”. I freelance for Carter and Co. who happens to be located where the move was filmed, in Richmond, Va. One of the designs I had previously worked on for a different project and was found on the Carter and Co. website. The other ) Lincoln’s office ) was specifically created for this project.

    • Patrick Shields February 19, 2013, 10:30 pm

      Todd, what a great gig for you! I took a look at the Carter & Company web site but didn’t see any references to the Lincoln movie. Can you send me the link to the paper you recreated for the movie? I’d like to link it on my blog post. Thanks!!
      Patrick

  • Paul February 20, 2013, 11:22 am

    Hi Patrick – did you get a chance to view any of the original wallpaper from the museum? For your restoration? I have a swatch of the original wallpaper bought from auction and didn’t know if you knew who I could reach out to at the theatre to get it looked at; perhaps they do not even have the original.

    • Patrick Shields February 20, 2013, 1:37 pm

      The National Park Service runs both Ford Theater and the Petersen house. I have read that souvenir hunter were all over both properties after Linclon died and you might have some important , if it can be confirmed . Contact the Ford Theater curators .
      Patrick

  • nora johnson February 20, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Really interesting discussion as it feels so immediate to find out the who-did-it so quickly, and also to relate to seeing the results in this fabulous film.

    Thanks for drawing attention to it.

  • Dawn Johnson November 19, 2013, 2:11 pm

    I just tried finding Carter and Company and their website is dead. They are not coming up in the yellow pages either.
    Does anyone know if they are closed and if they are who bought their rollers?

  • John Burrows October 11, 2016, 3:52 pm

    Patrick, people interested in the LINCOLN sets by art director Jim Erickson (for which he won an Emmy), might like to know that the Lincoln Office set is exhibited on permanent lone at the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois.

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