Techniques > Systems > Finishes > NPS Preservation Brief 28 Painting Historic Interiors > Pre-1875 Paints >

Geographical Variation




The early churches and missions built by the French in Canada and the Spanish in the southwestern United States often had painted decoration on whitewashed plaster walls, done with early waterbased paints.

By the mid-17th century oil paint was applied to wood trim in many New England houses, and whitewash was applied to walls.

These two types of paint, one capable of highly decorative effects such as imitating marble or expensive wood and the other cheap to make and relatively easy to apply, brightened and enhanced American interiors.

In cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and later, Washington, painters and stainers who were trained guildsmen from England practiced their craft and instructed apprentices. The painter's palette of colors included black and white and grays, buffs and tans, ochre yellows and iron oxide reds, and greens (from copper compounds) as well as Prussian blue. That such painting was valued and that a glossy appearance on wood was important are substantiated by evidence of clear and tinted glazes, which may be found by microscopic examination.

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