Victorian Paper Mache Letter Box

By mwilcox


Paper mache was a popular construction material in the Victorian era. By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, there were at least 25 companies producing papier mache items. The most common were smaller pieces such as trays, workboxes, inkstands, snuff boxes, and letter holders, but articles as large as tables and chairs were made as well.

The making of papier mache items, in particular the larger pieces of furniture, involved several hours of work. These pieces were made in molded layers, some larger articles needing as many as 100 layers of paper by the time they were complete. Generally paper mache was made in black and decorated in gold with mother of pearl. Paper mache is quite durable as long as it is not stored in damp conditions. Minor damage can be touched up with plaster of Paris and paint on smaller inexpensive pieces, more valuable pieces should be left to the professional. Letter boxes like this piece were made in very large numbers, so values still tend to be rather modest for them, with most comparables selling at auction for about $200.00.