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More information on the Sherwin Williams Company can be found on their home page. This site offers additional information on the company's history, helpful hints, and links to other paint-related sites.

The History of the U.S. Paint and Coatings Industry traces the evolution of paints from 30,000 years ago to the present.

Where did I get this true story? From the fantastic book Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati (1987, Harper and Row, Publishers).






Do people prefer to mix their own?

Here's some useless info on the history of ready mixed paint. 

You know, that stuff that produces splatter and makes you a nervous wreck (in the sense that you won't be able to get it cleaned up before it dries). 

Here we go: (Wheeeeee!) 

People have been painting things for the past 20,000 years, but it wasn't until 1880 that you could purchase ready mixed paints. 

We've all heard those old caveman stories. You know, they used iron oxides to paint pictures of 'real men' dragging their wives around by their hair. Let's use non-scientific terms here - they painted with RUST! 

The ancient Egyptians then developed other paints from pigments in the soil (yellow, orange, and red - all still various forms of ......you guessed it - RUST!). 

By 1000 B.C. (did they know they were B.C.? - doubt it), they developed other paints and varnishes based on the gum of the acacia tree (better known today as gum arabic). 

Yet, it wasn't until the Middle Ages that they started to paint to protect various surfaces. However, they did not paint their homes (would you paint your straw hut?). 

What did they paint? Signs and more signs. Signs such as 'Chuck's New and Used Wagons' and 'Get your free bubonic plague here'... 

Their formulas were trade secrets and were very expensive to purchase. 

In the 17th century that delicious and brain messer-upper lead paint was introduced. Yet, they still did not paint their homes. 

It wasn't until the 19th century that people started to paint their places of dwelling (the rich had done it prior to this). 

Why? Two words - Linseed Oil. That spontaneous combustion stuff (great way to collect that fire insurance money and not get caught) was being mass produced. 

They also had pigment grade zinc oxide - we call it white paint. 

And along comes the genius. 

His name? 

Henry Alden Sherwin. (starting to sound familiar?) 

Good old Henry was an honest businessman. He was a partner in the company Sherwin, Dunham, and Griswold. 

Sherwin had this idea for ready mixed paints (actually, the first ready mixed paint was patented by one D.R. Averill of Ohio in 1867, but it never caught on). Dunham and Griswold (obviously an ancestor to the National Lampoon's Vacation Griswold family and equally as dumb) argued that homeowners knew what colors they wanted and would prefer to mix their own paint. They dissolved the partnership. 

Sherwin believed that his idea would be better, as factory paint would be of higher quality and consistency. 

He needed a knew partner, but who should he get? 

Maybe a Jones, or a Smith, or better yet a Silverman (my family name)? Of course not. 

He chose a Williams, as in Edward Williams. 

The company they formed had a very original name - the Sherwin-Williams company. 

They spent ten years trying to perfect the formula where fine paint particles would stay suspended in the oil. In 1880 they succeeded in developing a formula that far exceeded the quality of all paints available at the time. 

Let's face it, people are lazy and they bought tons of their paint. Why waste endless hours mixing lead base, linseed oil, turpentine, and paint pigments when you could buy it premixed? Apparently, Dunham and Griswold were the only two who enjoyed this chore. 

Until this point, you had to hire a professional to paint your home. For the first time, there was the idea that you could actually do-it-yourself. The next week they opened the first Home Depot (oops-that was a century later). 

Actually, this started a painting frenzy. They painted everything, including mouldings, hand carved mantels, paneled walls, and furniture made from such woods as mahogany, oak, and ebony. 

So the next time you buy an antique chest of drawers and ask "Why did anyone ever paint this thing?", you can blame Henry Sherwin. 

The moral of this story? Dunham and Griswold were extremely dumb. 

The rest is paint history. 

Useless?  Useful?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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