The fascinating true story of this seemingly eco-unfriendly logo, on Earth Day

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Photo: Jennifer Brett

Let’s get one thing straight: I love Sherwin-Williams. You know how some people have a favorite lipstick or nail polish color? I have a favorite paint color: Sherwin-Williams Summer Resort.

Each year on Earth Day, I always wonder what’s up with my beloved paint company’s logo. They don’t really want to pour paint all over the planet, right? Right! I finally put my wondering to rest and did some investigating. What I found was fascinating.

The story behind this logo is fascinating. Photo: Jennifer Brett

The story behind this logo is fascinating. Photo: Jennifer Brett

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s 1866, with the smoke still clearing over Civil War battlefields.

Henry Sherwin, who had moved from his native Vermont to Cleveland, Ohio, at the invitation of his uncle, worked an assortment of jobs that eventually led to a partnership in a paint wholesale business. That partnership dissolved but paint evidently captured young Henry’s imagination.

Sherwin eventually crossed paths with Union veteran Edward Williams. During the war Williams had a job guarding Confederate soldiers at the aptly named Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, before typhoid fever, not minie balls, nearly did him in. Paint must have seemed like a step up, and he and Sherwin each invested $15,000. The business swiftly took off.

The company became one of firsts, said Ellen Moreau, Vice President of Marketing Communications at Sherwin-Williams, whose help in uncovering corporate history for this piece was invaluable.

“We were the first company to do ready-mix paints, we developed the roller cover,” she noted.

With all this groundbreaking technology happening (remember: Thomas Edison’s first successful light bulb test happened in 1879) is it any wonder Sherwin-Williams wanted to share its treasure with the world?

Enter George Ford. The illustrator and ad man decided the company could improve upon its original logo: a chameleon changing colors:

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.. and thought this better captured Sherwin-Williams’ aspirational spirit:

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Look closely, Moreau notes, and you’ll notice that the globe has been tipped some so that the cascade of paint begins, where else? Cleveland, Ohio.

Please ignore this act of domestic terrorism by my cat Walter and focus instead on the paint color. Sherwin-Williams Summer Resort is totally my jam. Photo: Jennifer Brett

Please ignore this act of domestic terrorism and focus on the wall. Sherwin-Williams Summer Resort is my jam. Photo: Jennifer Brett

“Since 1905 it has been our formal logo,” Moreau said. “In 1975 we decided to retire the logo but we had  a lot of people who were unhappy about it so we brought it back in 1980.”

By the way, she shared not only a wealth of historical information but also some great, Earth Day appropriate recycling tips.

With latex paint, stuff cans with newspaper or cat litter to absorb any used product before recycling. Oil-based paint should be disposed of as you would any hazardous waste. She recommended an outfit called Paint Care (which, alas, does not operate in Georgia).

MORE: The biggest Georgia environmental stories of the year

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The culprit. Notice how Summer Resort looks a little different depending on time of day and how much sun the room gets. I'm telling you: go get some. Photo: Jennifer Brett

The culprit. Notice how Summer Resort looks a little different depending on time of day and how much sun the room gets. I’m telling you: go get some. Photo: Jennifer Brett

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Recycle paint, save the earth

Check out CHaRM (The Center for Hard to Recycle Materials) for recycling tips

Moreau, who’s partial to the Sherwin-Williams color Hazel, pointed out some other interesting tidbits. Sherwin-Williams hues cover Air Force One, the Golden Gate Bridge and the White House.

And the logo is not going anywhere.

“It’s well known around the world,” she said. “It’s really iconic.”

If you find the history of paint companies as fascinating as I do (what?) check out this timeline on the Sherwin-Williams web site.

And I’m telling you: Go get some Summer Resort.

SW


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