The Contentious Historical Origins of Spray Paint


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Spraying paint onto items dates back to the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, and the aerosolized spray paint is derived from the Chicago suburbs (albeit the technique of spraying paint on objects). Maybe it isn’t, either.

I’ve seen this fascinating little tidbit from the New York Times multiple times, in a variety of publications: The modest origins of spray paint cans

Edward Seymour, the owner of a painting coating firm in Sycamore, Illinois, was hunting for a simple method to show his aluminium coating. A makeshift spray gun, similar to those used for deodorizers, was recommended by his wife. Seymour used a can with a spray head to mix paint and aerosol in 1949. Compressing paint in a tin proved to be a good idea in the end.

As a result, that’s why so many Chicago radiators have that unusual aluminium coating. Ed Seymour’s firm, which is still based in Sycamore, is still operating.

Nonetheless, Joseph Binks and his colleague, both employees in Chicago at the turn of the century, are credited with inventing spray paint:

Binks worked at Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago as a maintenance supervisor in 1887. When Binks sent a crew down there with brushes and buckets, it took weeks to finish the walls on a single level of the multi-level basement at Marshall Field’s.

Binks used a hand-operated pump, a liquid holding device under pressure, and a wand with a nozzle on the end – much like the pump-up garden hose you now have – to expedite the task. The whitewash was poured into the tank by hand pump, then force-pushed out the wand’s end.

A helpful diagram of Binks’ innovation may be found in Collision Repair and Refinishing: A Foundation Course for Technicians. Binks established a firm in Glendale Heights based on his innovation, just like Ed Seymour did.

* The decorations director for the Columbian Exhibition was Francis David Millet. According to Wikipedia, that is correct. A diagram from the World’s Fair depicts spray painters at work here, courtesy of HowStuffWorks. The white of the White City, according to Clark (and others), may be traced back to Binks’ discovery:

90% of the buildings housing the exhibits were still unpainted just days before opening. Paint & Whitewash Spraying Machine, Go Inside Joe Binks. The exhibition was dubbed “The White City” in the press since all structures were gleaming white when it first opened.

* Back in 1897, Mr. T.G. Railway and Locomotive Engineering published a study titled BS on this subject: It was first used in structures at the World’s Fair in Chicago, according to Turner of New York City.

This isn’t the case at all. The technique of air spraying began on the Southern Railway and was initially reported in Locomotive Engineering seven or eight years ago. It had been in use for about six or seven years at the time.

The airbrush has its origins in Rockford and Chicago, and it’s amazing how many inventors of a successful process turn up long after the process has been adopted.

Update: It would be negligent of me not to mention the most important automotive application in human history, airbrushes. Because of this truck, I was late for a meeting. That’s a limited edition of the “King Ranch.”

airbrushed king ranch truck

airbrushed king ranch truck

Important facts about Spray Paint:


1. How was spray paint invented?

Ed Seymour, a paint salesman, wanted to coat radiators with an aluminum coating, according to The New York Times. His wife recommended that he use a spray gun, which is akin to a deodorizer. As a result, the spray paint can was created.

2. Who was famous for spray painting?

Spray paint was not widely available until the early 1950s, according to PETER STEVENS. In 1949, Seymour devised canned spray paint, but the tiny nozzle would clog with dried paint every time it was sprayed.



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