Brushes & Rollers

They called him the “one-man answer to Hirohito.” Thin and gangly, with a quick smile and an easygoing personality, Richard Adams didn’t exactly look the part. He might have been able to trace his lineage back to U.S. President John Adams, but he hardly stood out among his fellow Sherwin-Williams engineers until 1941, when he wound up making an unexpected contribution to the war effort.
 
Sherwin-Williams and other paint manufacturers were facing a potential crisis. Japan’s blockade of China had cut off their supply of Chinese hog bristles, an essential element in the production of domestic paint brushes.
 
Enter Richard Adams. While tinkering in his basement workshop, Adams connected a wooden handle to a circular roller that could absorb paint. And in that moment, the nation’s first easy-to-use roll-on paint applicator was born.
 
Adams’ gadget — later named the Roller-Koater — didn’t just offset the effects of a paintbrush shortage: It revolutionized the paint industry, giving even novice painters the confidence to do their own home-improvement projects.
 
In the wake of Roller-Koater’s impressive sales, domestic paintbrush manufacturers began competing to see who could give customers “more square feet of surface covering per dollar.”
 
Intent on trumping the Roller-Koater, a competitor debuted its own roller, applying a piece of carpet to a long cardboard cylinder. Sherwin-Williams countered with a special Kem-Tone brush that sped up the painting processes by holding and spreading more paint per bristle.
 
By 1950, Sherwin-Williams was offering its customers more than 50 different brushes, including highly durable and easy-to-clean nylon brushes. Four years later, the company added a new innovation: a double roller called Applikay. When used with the company’s Super Kem-Tone paint, the twin-roller allowed customers to apply paint patterns to their walls, creating wallpaper-like designs instead of monochromatic walls.
 
Following World War II, the construction of a plant in Deshler, Ohio, that was dedicated exclusively to producing rollers, covers and other painting accessories gave Sherwin-Williams an advantage over many of its rivals. And in the decades that followed, Sherwin-Williams would acquire some of the leading brush and roller manufacturers in the nation, including Rubberset in 1956 and Osborn Manufacturing of Ohio in 1968.
 
It was in 2004, however, that Sherwin-Williams added The Purdy Company, an industry leader, to its growing family of brush manufacturers. It was a perfect match, a marriage between two companies that shared a belief that there should be no compromise in their commitment to quality.
 
Founded in 1925, Purdy requires new brush makers to apprentice for six months before they can produce a single product, each of which bears the name of the person who hand-crafted it. Purdy products are considered the gold standard among painting professionals.