Our First Can of Paint
Just a few years after Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams began selling paint together, they had saved enough money to purchase a small one-story building on the Cuyahoga River where they planned to make their own paint. They installed a boiler, an engine, a mixer, a secondhand stone mill and a putty chaser, and after hiring an experienced paint maker from New York, they began manufacturing paste paints, oil colors and putty. Using 83 unique formulas, they produced 450 pounds of coatings in the first year, including their first quality oil color, GSP Raw Umber.
As competitors brought various ready-mix paints to market, Sherwin balked at the low standards of these offerings, declaring that it was “always my endeavor to do everything I could to establish a good reputation by giving good measure and good quality, to avoid every trick that would save a penny at the expense of the other fellow.” Sherwin pushed the development of a ready-mix paint that would meet a higher standard, something the firm accomplished in 1878.
Two years later, further improvements in the manufacturing process led to the creation of a ready-mix exterior coating labelled “Painter’s Prepared Paint.” This was renamed “Sherwin-Williams Paint,” or SWP for short. Sherwin’s insistence on quality resulted in a product demonstrably better than any other in the market. It quickly became the nation’s best-selling exterior house paint.
A major factor in the success of SWP was the guarantee that appeared on the paint cans, stating that “this paint, when properly used, will not crack, flake or chalk off, and will cover more surface, work better, wear longer, and permanently look better than other paints.” The firm declared confidently that it would “forfeit the value of the paint and the cost of applying it if in any instance it is not found as above represented.”