Paper has been around for millennia — invented by the Chinese around 105 AD — and was made primarily of with rags, but also bamboo. As papermaking moved to Korea and Japan, the inner bark of the mulberry bush was used.
But in Baghdad, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain, the lack of raw fibers meant rags were again pressed into service.
The invention of the printing press around 1440, and later the introduction of movable type in the 17th Century, greatly increased demand for paper. It led to a serious shortage of raw materials and to regulations governing the trade in rags.
The first paper mill in the United States was established in 1690 in Philadelphia. As was the custom, it used linen and cotton rags to manufacture paper. Rags were so valuable, one mill in Massachusetts used the watermark "Save Rags."
The Wilton Historical Society tells us paper has been made from wood only since the mid-19th Century. Children are invited to learn more about the history of papermaking, and make their own paper, at a workshop at the society on March 11.