Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ca. 1879 Prepared Paint Colors

For more information about historic paint colors for your Victorian or Arts and Crafts era home or business, please visit the Historic Design Consulting webpage today.

Graphic from a ca. 1879 Van Duzer catalog. 
In a previous post I described the importance of the paint can in the history of house painting.  Rather than having to mix white lead, oil, pigments and driers in a bucket at the job site, painters and homeowners alike were able to buy cans of prepared and tinted paint. This not only made painting easier but it ensured the uniformity of color and quality.

This makes us wonder what colors of prepared paint were available.  A ca. 1879 catalog of the wholesaler S. R. Van Duzer  of New York City has a comprehensive list of colors which could be purchased in one gallon cans.  The list includes:

Inside White                                       Green Gray                                               

Outside White                                    Flesh Color
Yellow Stone                                      Light Brown
Free stone                                           Flaxen Gray
Stone Color                                        French Gray
Buff Color                                          Light Drab
Light Gray                                          Dark Drab
Lavender                                             Light Lead
Silver Gray                                          Dark Lead
Pearl Color                                          Fawn
Yellow Gray                                       French Ochre
Flaxen Yellow                                    Venetian Red 
Azure Blue                                         Brown
Pure Gray                                           Peach Color
Subdued Green                                   Vermillion
Red Gray                                            Chrome Yellow
Permanent Green                                Pea Green
Lilac                                                    Black
Light Blue                                           Dark Blue

This list of colors is actually quite large and varied.  It includes the natural stone, buff, gray and brown colors advocated by Andrew Jackson Downing and popular in 1840s through the 1860s.  It also has many of the greens, reds and other tertiary colors which were starting to becoming popular during the 1870s.   

Although it is nice to have a list of paint colors, the real trick is determining what each actually looked like.  We can do this by looking at contemporary paint recipes, sample paint chips, advertising and even artistic representations such as paintings.  

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