In the early part of the twentieth century, there were several types of wall board materials that were quite different than the traditional interior wall finish - plaster. Most were made with compressed wood fibers or pulp. Some were smooth-surfaced, some manufactured with a wood grain texture and some were striated to look like boards. The wall boards were simply nailed to studs and joists in unfinished work or nailed over previously finished surfaces. The joints were typically covered with thin wood batten strips and the assembly was then painted.
There were many types and several manufacturers, but the most well known product today is Beaver Board. Over a century after this product was first developed, most folks refer to all of these older fiber board products as Beaver Board. Beaver Board just had the best advertising.
In 1903 J. P. Lewis, a paper product maker, glued layers of mat board used for picture framing to make boards for lining his attic. This took place in Beaver Falls, NY. In 1906, he formed the Beaver Manufacturing Company. Later wallboards made of layered wood fibers include Upson Board, Cornell board, Sterling, and Fibro-Wallboard.
Some people claim Homasote, made from recycled paper waste, was the original fiber board wall product. It was originally manufactured for lining railroad carriages, then automobile tops. It wasn’t until 1925 that it was marketed as a building product.
Some other interesting wall board products include Peerless and Utility Wall Board, which were made from cardboard layered with asphalt. Fiberlic was made of fibers from tree roots. Celotex, a name now associated with modern insulation board, was originally a fiber board made from the waste of processed sugar cane.
These products were advertised as inexpensive, light, easily handled and installed as compared to the process of plastering over lathe. It was also advertised as having insulating qualities. One advertisement from the 1920s claimed that when used in chicken houses “hens will lay more eggs in winter”.
I only see an occasional modest home that has all walls made from these early fiber board products. I find it’s used mostly in buildings that were originally secondary buildings like carriage sheds or in summer cottages. The most common place to find it is in the attic of older homes, that wasn’t originally finished.