History . Paint
Benjamin Moore was founded by brothers Benjamin and Robert Moore in 1883 in Brooklyn, New York. They started with just $2,000 and began by producing a wall coating product called Calsom Finish. Despite a fire destroying their first location in 1884, the brothers quickly reopened in a new location and continued their success. By 1889, Benjamin Moore had established a New York corporation, and soon after, they incorporated in New Jersey, which is still the company’s headquarters.
Benjamin Moore distinguished itself from competitors by charging premium prices for premium paint, whose durability and high-quality pigment they considered worth the cost. They quickly developed a reputation for creating innovative products, such as Muresco, a ready-mix paint made from a recipe that included Irish moss and Pennsylvania clay, which became the best-selling calcimine paint in the U.S. during the first part of the 20th century.
Throughout the company’s history, they continued to innovate and develop new products such as Sani-Flat, a non-shiny, lead-free oil paint that stood up to repeated washings, and Unilac, a quick-drying enamel that could replace lacquer. The Moores began expanding in 1897, opening factories in Chicago and Cleveland, and soon after, incorporated the Canadian branch of the company in 1906. Benjamin Moore hired its first chemist in 1907 and established a research department.
Rather than simply making and selling paint, Benjamin Moore sought to educate consumers about house painting. In the early 1900s, the company began printing decorating brochures for customers, and in 1929, a department of home decorating was added. Members of the department answered painting questions in person or by mail. From the 1930s until the ’60s, Betty Moore, a fictional character played by various actresses, provided house painting tips in a series of weekly radio programs.
Benjamin Moore managed to grow and stay afloat through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, and in the postwar era, industrial coatings that the company had developed for the war effort were adapted for house painting. Another postwar development was the rise of latex paint, which was far more eco-friendly than any previous kind of house paint and easier to apply and clean.
In 1957, Benjamin Moore rolled out Regal Wall Satin, an easy-to-apply latex paint, and in 1972, Regal Aqua Velvet arrived, boasting a low-gloss eggshell finish that stood up to scrubbing. Four years later, in conjunction with the National Park Service, Benjamin Moore released its Historic Colors Collection, based on NPS archives of historic homes. In 1982, the company’s Computer Color Matching System became operational, allowing any sample to be matched, not just Benjamin Moore’s own color chips.
Throughout the 1990s, Benjamin Moore sold its house paint only through certified dealers. The organization has long been known for keeping the specifics of its business operations closely guarded. At the same time, Benjamin Moore has repeatedly shown itself to be an early adopter when it comes to both cutting-edge technology and environmental sensitivity.
Today, Benjamin Moore is one of the largest paint makers in North America, with seven plants, 22 distribution facilities, and roughly 4,000 independent retailers in its network. Some of Benjamin Moore’s most recent developments have been among the most dramatic in its history. In 1999, the company released EcoSpec, a house paint made without volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or solvents, and thus less harmful to both the planet and consumers. In the subsequent decade, VOCs emerged as a major issue for the paint industry. Benjamin Moore found itself ahead of the curve.