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Pigment Identification of Early Commercial Architectural Paint in Trade Catalogues: 1870-1914

Manchenton, Courtney L.

What can early paint trade catalogues tell us about the beginnings of the commercial paint industry? Trade catalogues were originally produced advertising materials, but are now becoming a non-traditional tool for period architectural paint research. In order to garner the interest of the American consumer, paint manufacturers produced catalogues to promote and showcase their products. To do this these catalogues often used scenes depicting designs using their products, testimonials, or a collection of samples mounted inside. Many paint trade catalogues contained actual samples of the manufacturer's products, likely similar to those being sold to consumers. These catalogues were tested to understand the use of pigments as the paint industry developed in the late 19th and early twentieth century, leading to interesting and previously unknown findings about the paint industry during this period.

The study of commercial architectural paints is in its infancy, as most studies are focused on fine artists' paints and hand-mixed architectural paints. The research described in this paper begins to fill the hole in architectural paint research by using paint catalogues produced between 1870 and 1915 to test and identify the pigments used, looking to see if and how the use of pigments changed as the paint industry developed.

For this research, over 50 period paint catalogues, containing nearly 1500 samples and spanning almost 20 companies, were tested. This examination involved the technical analysis of the pigmentation present in the samples using a variety of methods, including Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray florescence (XRF), and polarized light microscopy (PLM). This testing was done not only to identify the pigments used, but also as an analysis of the testing methods for this particular type of investigation. The different strengths, advantages, and disadvantages of each test was noted, as different tests achieved different quality and types of results, with some tests being much more effective at gathering certain types of data than others.

The analysis of these samples revealed unexpected and fascinating results that would not have been achieved without a sampling of this size, showing sweeping similarities across the paint industry that had gone hitherto unnoticed as the paint industry developed into the large commercial enterprise that exists today.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Jablonski, Mary A.
Degree
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2015