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Moses Eaton & Moses Eaton, Jr.

Moses Eaton was one of the best documented stencilers of New England. He moved to Hancock, New Hampshire in 1792 from Needham, Massachusetts, near the port of Boston where European fashion first arrived. One of these fashions was imported wallpaper which many affluent families there could afford to buy. For those who could not, wall stenciling of the Moses Eaton type was already in evidence nearby as early as 1778.

It seems safe to assume that because Moses Eaton was forty years old at the time of this relocation to New Hampshire, his work there could have begun as soon as he was settled, circa 1800. In the Hancock, Dublin, Peterboro area there are many examples of walls decorated with the same patterns found years later in the original kit of wall stencils retrieved from his attic.

Family history avers both father and son, Moses Eaton, Jr., born in 1796, were stencilers. Without a doubt young Moses apprenticed to his father before striking out on his own. It is a matter of record that "two young men" stenciled together at the Joshua Eaton house in Bradford, New Hampshire circa 1824. One is believed to have been Moses Eaton Jr. His travels took him north and into Maine. Patterns "Down East" exhibit not only the old favorites found in his kit but also new ones, some characteristic of that state alone.

It is known that many men shared this profession and that exchanging patterns was commonplace. Although all of the patterns presented here have been attributed to the Moses Eatons, they might more accurately be ascribed "to them and their followers." Moses Eaton's patterns themselves, although influenced in placement of design by wallpapers, could not, in their simplicity, hope to reproduce the same hand-painted or machine produced overlay of colors which inspired them. That is why New England wall stenciling became an art form in its own right. Symbolism abounds in the various motifs. The swag and pendant, known as the liberty bell, was a patriotic emblem of post-Revolutionary America. Of those derived from nature, the flower baskets represented friendship; the oak leaf, strength and loyalty; the willow, everlasting life; and the pineapple, hospitality. Hearts, then, as today, stood for love and happiness, and were part of the "redding up" of a homestead for a new bride.

These stencils brought color and artistry to rural people eager for their plain walls to be transformed by red and green on backgrounds of salmon and raspberry pink, dove grey, sunny yellow and yellow ochre. Some stenciling appears on natural plaster or whitewashed walls or wood paneling; less expensive backgrounds, but still a way to afford the desired decoration.
Wallpaper was being produced in America throughout this time period and by 1840 our Industrial Revolution had arrived. This meant real wallpaper was affordable and a must for the fashionable housewife to "cover up that old stenciling!" Nevertheless, on serendipitous occasions, we are still peeling back the many layers of old wallpaper and discovering that Moses Eaton once was here!

Why Choose a Moses Eaton Pattern?