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pasteboard / lambrequin

A stiff, thick kind of paper board, formed of several single sheets pasted one upon another, or by macerating paper, and casting it in molds, &c., and used for a great variety of purposes. — Webster, 1882

Mrs. Boast cut out lambrequins a curtain of pasteboard, one to fit each shelf to hang at the front. -By the Shores of Silver Lake manuscript, Chapter 21, “Midwinter”

In the By the Shores of Silver Lake manuscript, Laura Ingalls Wilder called the “pasteboard curtains” they made for the whatnot shelves lambrequins. A lambrequin, says Mr. Webster, is “a short decorative drapery for a shelf edge or for the top of a window casing.” Also in the manuscript, Pa makes two whatnots; one is for Mrs. Boast. I always wondered where Mr. Boast was during all this; didn’t he help Pa? Or were Mr. Ogden and Mr. Boast too busy playing checkers to get involved?

Pasteboard is the old-fashioned word for what we call cardboard today. Your cereal boxes and shoe boxes, gift boxes and poster board are all made of pasteboard. The cheapest pasteboard produced is made of pulp pressed on a machine. Finer pasteboard is sheets of paper glued together. You can tell the difference once the pasteboard gets wet; pasteboard made from sheets tends to separate back into sheets when wet.

Lambrequins for the what-not. Mrs. Boast cut long pieces of pasteboard to use as the foundation for decorative edging — lambrequins — for each shelf of the what-not. Each pasteboard strip was said to have a big scallop in the middle and a smaller one at each side. Folded brown paper, such as butcher paper or the brown paper that disposable lunch bags are made of, covered all the scallops in rows of little points. The process is pretty self-explanatory in By the Shores of Silver Lake, and the end result looks like the photo above, taken of a what-not shelf at Ingalls Homestead in De Smet.

Does this sound familiar? The project described below is for making a basket out of pasteboard and brown paper. A pasteboard circle is used for the bottom, and a paper strip is made into a circle to form the sides. The outside of the basket is covered with little points of brown paper, sewed on in rows:

…The shape having been decided upon and the materials collected all ready to hand, the best way is to cover the pasteboard foundation with strong brown paper; and, to make a beginning, large cone-scales (paper folded multiple times to make points) can be sewed round the edge, the stitches which fasten them being covered by smaller cones sewed over, and continuing thus until a sufficient depth is covered, laying the last row one over the other in such a way that the points of one row always come between the points of the last. The outline, if we may call it, of the basket being made in this way, and the handle in the same manner. — Janet E. Ruutz-Rees, “Home Occupations” in Appleton’s Home Books (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1884), 152-153.


pasteboard (SSL 22)
     edging for what-not shelves (SSL 22); see also what-not / whatnot
     pasteboard box (TLW 32; LTP 3)