Peter C. Grierson & Co. collection of templates, stencils, sample boards and drawings, circa 1880s-1900s

Peter C. Grierson & Co. collection of templates, stencils, sample boards and drawings, circa 1880s-1900s
circa 1880s-1920s
approx. 1,700+ stencils and 700+ design drawings (in 2 archival boxes, 1 manuscript box, 1 oversize box, 1 oversize folder)
This collection is divided into two series: Series I: Stencils and Drawings and Series II: Collected Material.
Finding Aid
Finding aid available online. See Online Link.
Broken into two series, Stencils and Drawings and Collected Material, this collection includes a variety of visual material and a small amount of written work including minutes from the meetings of the Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators of America and two educational booklets. The stencils in this collection were organized by the creation of “Stencil Sets.” In the process of creating a stenciled surface, Grierson would first draw a design drawing. From this drawing the stencil was cut. An intricate and polychrome composition would require a layering technique that demanded the stencil to be broken up into individual components. Thus, to properly execute a single design drawing, upwards of five stencils might be required. When possible the design drawings were matched with their stencils to create a complete set. Individual stencils without design drawings were grouped thematically.
Biographical / Historical Note
Painter and decorator Peter C. Grierson was born in Scotland in 1864 to Peter and Anna Grierson. Along with his parents and two siblings, Grierson immigrated to the United States in 1867. In the 1880 Federal Census, Grierson is listed as living in Hartford, Connecticut with his parents and five siblings. The 1880 Census records Greirson as an apprentice to an architect and five years later, the 1885 Hartford City Directory lists him as a practicing architect. After 1886, however, Greirson is listed in the Hartford City Directory as a painter and decorator. Experiencing success as a decorator, Grierson was able to establish his own business and the 1897 Hartford City Directory contains an advertisement for P.C. Grierson & Co., Practical Decorators and Designers. According to the advertisement, the company specialized in "Fresco and Plain Painting. Paper Hanging and Wood Finishes. Relief Work and High-Class Decorating."
A member of the Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators of America, Grierson's archive details that a large part of his business was dependant on the production of stencils for furniture. Samples of stenciled surfaces detail that Grierson worked primarily in the tradition of Hitchcock Chairs. Manufactured in Connecticut, Hitchcock Chairs were an example of early-American massed produced furniture. The chairs were often pieced together using rosewood and then painted black. The black paint was then coated with a binder such as varnish and turpentine. When dry, a stencil was laid flat on the surface and metallic powders were brushed on with small velvet or leather pads. The stencils were traditionally cut into compositions of bowls of fruit, clusters of flowers, and borders of flowering stems, roses, acorns and laurel leaves. Working in the early twentieth-century, Grierson's role in the resurgence of the Hitchcock Chair aesthetic was part of a larger nationalistic colonial-revival movement in the United States.
In 1892 Greirson was married to woman of Irish decent named Mary, with whom he had four children. Grierson died on the 13th of August in 1949 in Hartford.
This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please call (212) 854-4110 or email
Manuscript/Archive Manuscript/Archive
Acquired On
October 19, 2011
Available from:
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