Frederick Walton invented linoleum in Britain in 1860. Walton coated flax cloth with a combination of gum, cork dust, resin and linseed oil in search of a cheap floor covering. An amalgamation of the Latin Linum (‘flax’) and oleum (‘oil’) formed the word linoleum.
““There was a paint pot in the laboratory, and, as usual a skin or surface of dried oil had formed upon it…it occurred to me that…I could use it as a … waterproofing material, similar to india rubber.” “
Frederick Walton (on discovering linoleum process)
‘Floor Cloth’ was created by applying an oil-based paint to canvas this technique preceded linoleum. Linoleum became popular as it was springier, longer-lasting and easier to clean, and waxable.
Thomas Armstrong manufactured linoleum in Pittsburgh in 1908 in a wide variety of colours and designs, including a simulation of wood, flowered chintz and Cubist Art. Armstrong’s most common pattern was linoleum simulating cobblestones. As a medium for art prints, linoleum became popular for a period, either when lithographic stones were not available due to war shortages or when a particular effect was desired. It was also used in poster printing.
Original linoleum has been replaced by vinyl, a synthetic polymer that can take impregnated patterns and is more resilient, providing resistance to heavy abrasion and pointed heels, since its applied surface nature wears off by repeated use. With the nostalgia trend of the 1980s, vinyl started to appear in linoleum motifs that had been added earlier.