As with many other aspects of the early 20th Century, interior and exterior paint colors and schemes were a major departure from what America had known in its recent past. Dark and deep colors popular during the middle to late Victorian era began to give way to brighter and more cheerful colors in the late 1890s. The trend continued in most areas of the US and by the 1910s, virtually all dark colors had been eliminated from the interior of the typical home. An exception can be granted for Tudor Revival and Arts and Crafts style homes, which still clung to finished dark woods and darker colors than those which were being used in Colonial Revivals and Victorian homes that were being renovated to reflect new tastes. Americans began to reject dark colors, feeling that they had no place in Colonial styled homes, which were usually characterized by rooms with light colored walls that were usually accented by another color, usually a white or ivory, on the ceiling and woodwork. Deeper colors were usually being reserved for exteriors.
This change is apparent in the paint samples contained in a 1919 Montgomery Ward paint catalog we recently found at a flea market, which we have included scans of below. Montgomery Ward, being a mail-order general merchandise retailer, would not have had quite the selection one would have found in a paint store in 1919, but the catalog allows us to look at some of the offerings available and some of the more popular colors of the era.
The first page contains prices of concrete and stucco coatings that are featured later in the catalog along with shingle stain pictured on the second page.
The age-old concept of buying large quantities to get a better deal per unit was alive and well in 1919. As noted on the above page, an individual one gallon can of shingle stain was $1.10, while a 50 gallon barrel could be had for 97 cents per gallon. The same is true with the concrete coating at $2.50 per individual gallon and $2.34 per gallon in a 25 gallon barrel. Exterior paints are still typically sold in larger quantities today, though there aren't many outlets where the standard consumer can get a 50 gallon barrel of paint through mail order.
As can be seen in the samples above, a variety of colors of exterior paint were available from Wards in 1919. The next few images are other pages from the catalog.
Wards apparently believed in advertising their premium line of paint as "cheapest" over the long term, as it was supposed to have lasted longer than their standard lines. At $3.27 per individual gallon, it was significantly more expensive than their second tier paints in 1919 dollars, which, adjusted for inflation, would be approximately $40 in 2010 dollars. A 50 gallon barrel, advertised at $3.12 per gallon would have cost $156. That would translate to almost $2,000 in 2010!
Most interior paints were very bright colors. At $2.40 per gallon for flat finish and $2.65 per gallon for enamel finish, one could have up to date colors throughout their house for under $50 in many cases.
Montgomery Ward decided to throw some examples of their line of wallpaper into their paint catalog. The papers shown here appear to have been inspired by those originally hung in aristocratic homes of the late 1700s and early 1800s; however, they are distinctly from the Colonial Revival era. Early wallpapers were not as elaborate. One could argue that there was still some Victorian influence alive in some of these papers with their floral arrangements and use of darker colors for accents. Today, surviving examples of wallpaper from the 1910s is rare.
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