House Painting: A “Not-So-Boring” Quick History

House Painting: A “Not-So-Boring” Quick History

Within the last month, I have mixed custom paint colors for customers to match things ranging from a nail polish bottle to an engagement photograph to a 12-foot tall house plant!  Today we take color-matching technology for granted but thousands of years ago it was not so simple.


For as long as mankind has had living space, there has been some form of painting and interior decorating.


Archeologists have found evidence of cave paintings dating back as early as 38,000 BC.  Our ancestors made primitive paint from soot, clay, dirt and animal fat to spruce up their walls!


In ancient Egypt (3150-31 BC), decorative painting took on a whole new level of quality.  Egyptian artisans mixed ground glass and semi-precious stones, lead, earth, animal bloods and oils and fat to produce the precursor to modern paint.  The Egyptians created six basic colors: white, red, yellow, green, black and blue.


For thousands of years, the Egyptians used paint to highlight their rich culture and history.  They created elaborate wall paintings and furnishings to adorn the living spaces of the pharaohs and the ruling elite.  Temples and tombs were painted by the highest-skilled artisans in society.  Their hand-made paints have retained their color so well, that even today, we can still see the vivid colored walls intact in many historic Egyptian temples.


The advent of modern house painting began in England in the 14th Century.  The first painters’ guild was established to maintain standards of practice in the industry.  The organization was initially divided into two groups: the “Painters’ Company” and the “Stainers’ Company.”  The guild was very protective of its paint mixing techniques and private color formulas were kept in secret in order to protect the painters’ way of making a living.


In the 1600’s, new technology and mixing processes revolutionized the painting industry in Europe, however, in the American colonies house painting was met with strong disapproval.  The puritan Pilgrims considered painting your home to be unholy.


They felt that a freshly painted house was an immodest display of vanity and wealth.   In 1630, a preacher in Charlestown colony painted the inside of his house and was subsequently accused of the crime of sacrilege.


Despite colonial distain for the “vanity of house painting,” the demand for paint grew throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in America.   Oil and water became the primary bases mixed with a variety of materials including lead, ground shells, iron and copper oxide, coffee, rice, eggs, fruits, berries and other vegetation to create paint.


In 1718, Marshall Smith invented a “Machine for the Grinding of Colours” which subsequently led to manufacturing paint in a centralized paint mill. By 1845, paint mills began using linseed oil as a less expensive and more effective binding agent for their paints.


In the latter half of the 19th Century, the painting industry grew significantly in America.  Wealthy industrialists decorated their homes with landscape murals and detailed painting on paneling, cornices and ceilings.  At the time, artisan paint brushes were made with a wooden handle and natural hair fibers and were very similar to the brushes we now use today.


In 1866, the first American company to produce ready-to-use paint was formed, Sherwin-Williams & Co. Harry Sherwin, Alanson Osborn and Edward Williams formed Sherwin, Williams in Cleveland, Ohio.


In 1883, Benjamin Moore opened its doors and the great American Paint Race was born!   Benjamin Moore focused on chemistry to improve color mixing and production throughout the 20th Century. Benjamin Moore was also the first to design the computer based color-matching system in 1982.


So as you stroll down the aisle in your home improvement store and you see the endless array of color choices, I hope you will appreciate how much the paint industry has evolved throughout history.


Call us today and we will help you make the most of your home with paint colors that can add life to your exterior and enhance the mood of your interior.

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MDF Painting & Power Washing, LLC
  • 500 W Putnam Ave, Ste 400a
    Greenwich, CT 06830
  • 203-542-9547

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