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The History of House Paint

Artisans have been painting homes since the 11th century and by the 14th century, house painter guilds were developing in England. This marked the beginning of house painting as a profession. However, we know very little about the mixing techniques used at the time, because the guild members kept them secret in hopes of protecting their livelihoods. In Colonial America, house painting was seen as ostentatious and an expression of vanity, but the demand for interior house painting persisted. At the time, oil and water formed the basis of most paints, while a variety of other materials, including iron, copper, berries, fruits, lead, and other ingredients were used to add pigment. Because these early paints were extremely thick, the coats were often uneven. In the 1700s, Marshal Smith created a “Machine for the Grinding of Colors” and there was a growing emphasis on uncovering the best methods for grinding pigment materials and how to manufacture paint in mills. By the 1800s, linseed oil had emerged as the preferred agent for binding. In 1866, Harry Sherwin, Alanson Osborn, and Edward Williams founded Sherwin, Williams & Co in Cleveland, Ohio; it was the first company to produce ready-to-use house paint. Benjamin Moore opened in 1883 and quickly became known for their focus on researching and developing chemicals to improve paint mixing. In 1982, the company famously designed a computer-based color matching system, which is now an industry standard that virtually all modern paint brands have a version of. Today, there are seemingly endless paint colors and brands to choose from and all of them are a vast improvement over the primitive options available in the early days of house paints.

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