Kirk Remembers,  Product History

Kirk Remembers: Benjamin Moore’s Colors in Oil

I found some tubes of Benjamin Moore’s Colors in Oil. The colors available in this line were familiar to artists of the day. They included umbers, siennas, chrome yellow, chrome green, American vermilion, Prussian blue and others. Also included was rose lake. This color could make a deep wine colored mahogany stain like you see on furniture from the twenties and thirties.

Benjamin Moore’s Colors in Oil were used to tint oil based house paint colors. Also some furniture refinishers used them to tint nitrocellulose lacquers. At some time along the way, Moore’s decided to drop the colors in oil, but there was still a demand for them by people doing special finishes for walls. The company dropped them from the price list, but if you knew about their existence you could still order them. Sometime in the 1990s the product was finally discontinued.

I actually carried some to class and applied them to paintings I was working on. I carried the ½ pt cans into the studio in a 4 gallon paint box. One time when the professor, Ron Taylor, walked by to check on the students’ work he looked at the cans on my taboret. He commented on the fact that the cans of color were rather oily, but that didn’t seem to bother him a lot. The colors mixed well with tubes of artists’ colors. I still have a couple of paintings from that class. The colors and surface of the painting are holding up nicely after fifty years.

Until the late 1950s there were no color machines in stores. In fact until the 1950s all the house paints were oil based with the exception of casein paint. There were only the colors referred to as standard color on a color chart. When you wanted a special color for your house you need a skilled person to mix it for you.

There was a man that worked for my grandfather for a lot of years, Mr. Jim Doster. I asked Mr. Doster when he started working for my grandfather. He said he thought he came to work with my grandfather in 1921. Sometimes I would be with my grandfather or father when they would be checking the various jobs they had running. I always liked to visit the jobs where Mr. Doster was mixing colors. He would be surrounded by buckets of paints of various colors as well as smaller cans and tubes of tinting colors like Moore’s Colors in Oil. He would talk to me while he worked, making me feel welcome on the job.