Nate’s vintage painted rug

Nate writes:

Hi, We just bought an old house, and under a carpet in one of the bedrooms was a “something” — I am not sure what its real name is… It is 6 feet by 8 or 9 feet, and is a fantastic picture / mural. Looks like it is on masonite or some other fiber type board. The “rug” is not attached at all — we can pick it up and move it. It is not gummy at all, seems like just fiberboard, maybe 1/8 of an inch thick. The house was built back around 1900 as a schoolhouse, then sold, dismantled, moved and rebuilt maybe around 1935. The family we bought it from had it since the mid 50’s… I would like to … see if anyone knows anything about it. Thanks!

Nate, it’s hard to say what this is made out of —  there are a number of possibilities.  I recommend that you have it looked at by experts to (1) identify and value it, (2) discuss how to preserve it, and most importantly —  (3) to ensure you know what materials it may be made of  so that you can make informed issues about environmental and safety issues.  In an old house, you want to check every surface for vintage nastiness such as lead and asbestos, for example. Update: Jane Powell in her book “Linoleum” says that while linoleum is known today for its use of renewable resources (cork, linseed oil, namely), heavy metals such as lead may have been used in the manufacturer of old linoleum. So — Precautionary Pam repeats: Get with your own properly licensed professional to determine what’s in this , so that you can make informed decisions about how to handle. Be Safe / Renovate Safe.

That said, here are some possibilities that I am aware of:

1. Impregnated and enameled felt: I have a 1954 catalog for Armstrong flooring, and it is mostly all tile and sheet. But, at the back, in a very small section, they they still feature several rugs like this, with the “Quaker Floor Covering” brand attached. In their description, they say the rugs (two shown here) are made of felt impregnated with a waterproofing and strengthening saturant. It then has sealants on the top and bottom, a leveling coat, then is painted with the design and baked. (“Impregnated… saturant… paint” = code words for get it tested to know what you have.)

2. Linoleum: While my catalog shows a kind of felt-painted-rug, bona-fide linoleum rugs also were produced… and it could be that you have one of those. Here is a link to Secondhand Rose and their discussion of linoleum rugs and the process with which they were made. By the way, I am pretty sure these are wicked expensive and then some. So much so that the price is not even mentioned, and they forewarn you of the difficulty to install. Read: Brittle. The linoleum or linoleum-style rug that I once saw at an estate sale was flexible, but very brittle. In fact, I could not buy it because it was clear that it would bust into pieces if it were not kept absolutely flat.

3. Other: You say your rug feels like it is on a piece of masonite or something stronger and less flexible than linoleum, so it could well be that you have something else. (Most of my focus is on post-war decor, whereas these types of rugs, I believe, were more popular in the early 20th century.)

One thing is pretty clear to me, Nate: I bet your your rug is quite rare and valuable. Novelty and juvenile designs like this are always very collectible. And even with the condition issues, your rug has tremendous charm. Perhaps it belongs in a museum. Good luck, and many thanks for sharing.

Be-Safe-graphic2.3

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Comments

  1. says

    The person who asked why it was under the carpet? I don’t know the why, but we certainly see a lot of that around here in the older homes. We found linoleum underneath carpeting in many rooms in this 1913 house we’re living in now.

  2. Nate says

    Hey everyone,
    Thanks for offering thoughts and insights on this- very helpful and encouraging. My dad is visiting, and he believes it is linoleum – if you look at some of the broken edges there is a blackish layer underneath the art layer, but then under the black is more cardboardy (I know, not a real word, but you get the idea…)
    I can try to take some better pictures of the artwork, if people are interested.
    One question — I live in north east MD, near PA and DE borders, just a few minutes off I 95, hour from Philly, hour from Baltimore. Does anyone have any experience with an appraiser in this area, or a recommendation that might help in that regard? I think it is a very cool piece, and would consider keeping it, but I know that we are not going to be able to give it proper care and feeding. So if it is worth money, that is probably the direction I would look toward. Thanks again! — Nate

  3. Jeff says

    Hi Nate, contact Jeff Kamel in Philadelphia at the Kamelot Auction- they are honest and easy to deal with, should be able to help you appraise it. There will be a fee for a straight appraisal, though if you were interested in selling, I think they would waive this. Best of luck.

  4. Sherri says

    I’m sure its valuable and interesting too,with the circus/cowboy and Indian theme. Look at the house burning with the clowns waiting to catch the kitty,and the clown putting water from the watering can to the hose! Very cool.

  5. Patricia says

    Hi Nate!! I have one too!!! I got it from my Gramps’ house when he passed. I, just today, Started to research it and I am so excited to see something like mine. I can’t (don’t know how to attach a picture) Mine is a picture of a US map w/ cowboys, Indians and ships all around the edges. I contacted Second hand rose, listed above and I am supposed send him a picture. I know mine is made by armstrong at it is a linoleum rug. I think yours and mine are worth alot of money. Yippee!!!! I’ll keep you posted if you are interested. I would love to know about yours. Excited researcher, Patricia

    • susan says

      My daughter just bought a row home in Philadelphia,PA. It is 3 stories and under the two area rugs on the third floor are old linoleum rugs. One is floral, the other is pink with old nursury rhyme characters on them. Haven’t been able to find out much about them or their value. We don’t want them. She would like to sell them if possible, but we are not sure how to go about doing this or learning the value of the rugs. We have reason to belief there may be at least two more on the second floor but have yet to remove the carpeting in these rooms. Any insight or information would be greatly appreciated!

      • pam kueber says

        Susan, I don’t do valuations on the blog. And, all buying/selling needs to go on the Forum: http://retrorenovation.com/forum … That said, if I were you, I’d find the bestest antiques dealer in town to help you identify what you have, set a value, and sell these. Also, from my personal experience seeing these in a house — do not try to move them yourself. This old flooring can get very brittle and break easily. Not only will that dramatically affect the value, you don’t know what’s in the stuff until you have it test.

  6. Michelle says

    I know this is an old post but it’s the only one on the net that I found. I too found a similar rug under old carpet in a farmhouse we purchased. Did you ever find anything out about your “rug” I cant find anything other than your post.

  7. Jason says

    I bought a late 1800’s Italianate house recently that had a bunch of these “faux rugs” in nearly every room in the house. There were some still new/unused rolls of them in the attic. They weren’t in great shape and did not have the mural like patterns you see above. I assumed they were all asbestos and threw them out. I wish I would have taken pictures, but I was so focused on being careful around the asbestos I don’t think I did:( They were all made out of a rubber like backing that was very fragile. I know they wouldn’t have been safe to keep or use, but would have been good to have pictures of.

  8. says

    We found this under two rugs in our 1800’s farmhouse. There is only a tiny edge that came off . I love it my husband says sell it but I cant bare to part with it.

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