E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Paper a House (To),
in theatrical phraseology, means to fill a house with deadheads, or non-paying spectators, admitted by paper orders. The women admitted thus, not being dressed so smartly as the paying ones, used to cover their shoulders with a scarlet opera cloak, often lent or hired for the occasion.