Perry Paint collection

Collection Type

  • Manuscripts






The Perry Paint Collection documents the work of the Edward K. Perry Company of Boston, Massachusetts, an important and influential design firm, and provides signifcant information about the practices and materials available to the paint industry from the 1930s to the 1980s.

The main contents are composed of a large variety of objects that made up the Edward K. Perry Company's 'Sample Room' in their offices on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts. This room, which was used as a showroom for prospective clients, contained many examples of paints and decorative techniques produced by the company. Staff members worked with prospective clients or design professionals to determine colors, materials, and techniques on sample boards. The collection includes hundreds of such paint samples, some of which illustrate the techniques of graining, marbling, leafing, sponging, stenciling, and pouncing.

Most of the objects in the collection were organized and stamped with a number in order to help in its identification. The company developed its own numbering system for the samples, hereafter referred to as the Perry Paint number. The numbers correspond to a certain color or technique that was filed on index cards. The largest part of the collection is comprised of small cardboard cards (most 8 1/2 x 11 inches), each an example of a different paint color or technique which make up the basic Perry color set.

The collection was originally installed in a specially constructed room in the basement of the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts, one of the Historic New England properties, and was meant to replicate the offices of the company.

Samples of wallpaper, decorative paper, flooring, moldings, and other architectural elements, as well as sample books, architectural drawings, and various publications are also found in the collection. Among the documents in the collection are "jobs billed" and client cards, organized alphabetically by customer each year and record labor, stock, and miscellaneous costs, and an index to the Perry Paint numbers. These records provide access points to the collection through color name, client name, and color number.

Source: Perry Paint Collection finding aid.


Descriptive Terms

paint (coating)
interior decoration
moldings (object components)
wood (plant material)
interior design
architectural elements
colors (hues or tints)
business records
personnel records
sample books
architectural drawings (visual works)
account books
stencils (tools)
manuscripts (document genre)

Physical Description

395 boxes
40 flat files
129 rolls

Finding Aid Info

Paper finding aid available in Library and Archives.

Collection Code


Collection Name

Perry Paint collection

Date of Acquisition


Reference Code



The Perry Paint Collection documents the work of the Edward K. Perry Company of Boston, Massachusetts, an important and influential design firm, as well as provides information about practices and materials available to the paint industry from about the 1930s to the 1980s.

Acquisition Type


Date Notes



Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)

Record Details


Edward K. Perry Company (Manufacturer)
Fox , Thomas Alfred, 1864-1946 (Architect)

Material Type

business records
personnel records
sample books
architectural drawings (visual works)
account books
stencils (tools)
manuscripts (document genre)


Paint industry and trade

Description Level


Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

The Edward K. Perry Company, of Boston, Massachusetts, was involved in interior and exterior painting and design starting in 1858 and was nationally known for quality decorative work. Lewis F. Perry began his business painting for friends and family in South Dedham (now Norwood), Massachusetts. In 1863, after receiving a commission in Brookline, the company moved to Boston, occupying the third floor of the Old Corner Bookstore building on Washington Street. By the 1890s, Lewis's two sons, Edward K. and John Perry, were active in the business, which, in addition to painting, had grown to include many aspects of interior design, such as carpeting, stained glass, and fixtures. At the time of Lewis Perry's death in 1903, the company passed to his sons and was renamed the Lewis F. Perry and Whitney Company, reflecting the addition of Benjamin Whitney, first cousin to Edward and John Perry, who took charge of the furnishings division.

After moving to new and larger quarters in 1908, the company suffered a severe fire. The extensive damages to their operations forced them to shut down for more than a year. The company re-emerged as Lewis F. Perry and Sons with a focus on painting. The company changed again in 1927, when Edward K. Perry and his brother John split as a result of philosophical differences about the direction and future of the company. The Edward K. Perry Company, located at 322 Newbury Street in Boston, concentrated largely on special decorative techniques, restoration, and technical innovation.

Throughout its history, the company worked on hundreds of private homes and public buildings, such as the Paul Revere House, Trinity Church, and Symphony Hall in Boston, The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, Rockefeller Center in New York City, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Sources: Perry Paint Collection finding aid; Boston Globe, 1986-05-09, 25.



The paper finding aid in the Library and Archives should be consulted for detailed information.

Boxes 1-100

These boxes contain small cardboard cards, mostly 8 1/2 x 11 inches, each of which is an example of a color or technique. The color or technique is indicated on the back of the card by a Perry Paint number (from 1 to 50) and a letter for its shade (M for medium or L for large). In the Perry Paint Sample Room, the cards were stored in bins, numbered by the Perry Paint system.

As some of the cards were unnumbered, the Perry Paint number was written on the back during the cataloguing process. Other cards have additional numbers in red ink, possibly indicating a sub-group of the category. In the print finding aid, these numbers are given in parentheses.

Other unnumbered cards were kept on top of the bins. Possibly examples of custom paints, many of these are identified by client name, written on the back of the card or on a file folder.

Boxes 101-162

These boxes contain large panels illustrating examples of paint colors, techniques, and decorations. The panels numbered 50 to 80 are made mostly of 24 x 28-inch press board pieces. Perry Paint numbers 81 to 106 are mostly on 24 x 36-inch or 36 x 48-inch beaverboard pieces, which illustrate painted wall decorations and paint samples.

Flat Files 163-202

These files contain stencils, pounces, wallpaper samples, and decorative paper with Perry Paint numbers 136 to 141. In the Perry Paint Sample Room, these items were stored in a cabinet.

Boxes 203-212, 214-215, 223-232

These boxes contain miscellaneous boards, stencils, pounces, and wallpapers that were unfilled and/or unnumbered. Boxes 223-231 contain unnumbered and unlabeled cardboard paint cards, mostly 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

Boxes 213 and 216-222

These boxes contain miscellaneous items found in the Perry Paint Sample Room in file cabinet drawers labeled with Perry Paint numbers 116 to 135. They include small sample cards, fabric samples, pieces of wood and moldings, and metalwork. The items in each drawer relate to a particular color.

Boxes 233-241

These boxes contain the "jobs billed" cards. Each year the cards were organized alphabetically by customer, giving labor, stock, and miscellaneous costs. Dates range from 1940 to 1955.

Boxes 242-243

These boxes contain miscellaneous materials found on top of the Perry Paint Sample Room bins.

Rolls 244-372

These rolls of wallpaper, pounces, tracings, stencils, designs, and architectural drawings were found on the top of the Perry Paint Sample Room bins.

Boxes 373-386

These boxes contain samples books, account books, and various publications.

Boxes 387-389

These boxes contain samples of paint boards, glass, and designs.