You mean Great-great Grandma didn't run down to Wal-Mart for some shelf paper?
Reading Alice James' 1911 book, "Housekeeping for Two," reminds me that there was a time before home keepers had access to modern shelf and drawer linings.
"For kitchen shelves many use newspapers, the edges scalloped; others like the marbled enameled cloth, which comes for the purpose, and is so easily wiped off," she says.
Doesn't the idea of scalloped edges sound appealing? But, I don't think I'd recommend using newspaper today, since have so many other materials available to us. In fact the whole subject of paper in the kitchen gives me shiver. When our children were very young, dh and I bought a house in which the owners had glued left over wallpaper to the shelves and the bottoms of kitchen cabinets. I learned after calling a pest control service in desperation that roaches love wallpaper paste. Apparently, this is not a problem when wallpaper is used as it should be -- on walls. But, it does become an issue if used on flat surfaces in the kitchen. Roaches may be lured to the kitchen by food scents and hang around to indulge in tasty snacks of glue.
Here's a pretty image from
Many homemakers of today still make decorative and functional linings for kitchen cabinets and pantries. Also, some trim the edges of wooden pantry or cabinet shelves with lace or other decorative trim.
I have inherited many pretty dresser scarves, doilies, etc. I use some of these to line shelves which don't get a lot of daily use. I have to say, though, that when it comes to my kitchen shelves and drawers, I'm thankful that someone invented durable, easy-to-trim and easy-to-clean shelf linings. Wal-Mart, here I come. :)