February 9, 2007


And the men behind the brand are...
Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams

Nobody thought you could sell ready-mixed paint. Painting one’s house was a very personal thing; the homeowner would always want to mix their own paints.
Henry Alden Sherwin thought differently.

Sherwin was born in 1842 and raised in Vermont. He quit school at the age of 13 and went to work in a store, spending his off-hours sleeping upstairs. For years Henry listened to his uncle, a lawyer in Cleveland, rave about the bustling city by Lake Erie.

Finally, in 1859 Henry saved up enough money to go to Cleveland.
Sherwin thrived in business. He worked as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocery and was soon offered a partnership. A religious man Sherwin never reconciled himself to the fact that his firm sold liquor and he not only turned down the partnership but resigned his position.

In 1866 Sherwin invested $2000 in a partnership of Truman Dunham & Company, a manufacturer of linseed oils. For three years Sherwin agitated for the company to take an active role in developing ready-mixed paints. Finally it was agreed that Sherwin would take what little paint business the firm had and the other partners would take the linseed oil business.

In 1870 Sherwin found another partner in good-natured, fun-loving Edward Porter Williams. Williams proved to be a born salesman who spurred the company's growth while Sherwin toiled meticulously to create a superior ready-mixed paint.

It took ten years. In 1880 Sherwin-Williams introduced their first ready-mixed paint. Henry Sherwin was convinced that his paint far surpassed any of the inferior canned paints then on the market. He had created a mill that ground color pigments fine enough to remain suspended in the oils that carried them. Sherwin-Williams paint would stay as fresh as the day it was mixed in the factory.

To overcome consumer resistance Sherwin-Williams ready-mixed paint came with an ironclad warranty: "We guarantee 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. We hereby agree to forfeit the value of the paint AND THE COST OF APPLYING IT if in any instance it is not found as above represented."

It didn't take much convincing for homeowners to abandon their linseed oil pots and turpentine jars in favor of a pre-mixed paint that covered their walls. Sherwin-Williams ready-mixed paints were an immediate success. The company began to sell only pre-mixed canned paints. Warehouses spread up in Newark, New Jersey and Boston to meet demand.

Sherwin quickly expanded his lines to turn homeowners into paint experts.
He introduced surface preparations, primers, brushes and clean-up materials. Meanwhile Williams concentrated on developing finishes for the powerful railroad industry which led to the company's first plant outside Cleveland. In 1888 Sherwin-Williams started a factory in Chicago, destined to be the largest paint manufacturing plant in the world.

By the end of the century Sherwin-Williams warehouses spanned the continent. The firm was taking steps to own and manufacture raw ingredients when Edward Williams died in 1903. Two years later the "Cover-the-Earth" trademark, a can of paint spilling across a globe, was adopted.

Henry Sherwin resigned the presidency in 1909 to serve as Chairman of the Board. He lived long enough to participate in his company's 50th Year Golden Jubilee before dying in 1916.

No comments: