Abstract: Tales of Styling and Forecasting: The Du Pont Company and the Color Revolution

Regina Lee Blaszczyk


During the 1920s, American business practice underwent major changes as companies competed in a "buyer's market." Firms experimented with strategies for stimulating sales: installment credit, mass advertising, product styling, and color merchandising. Among these strategies, historians know the least about color. This paper examines color styling and forecasting at E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company between 1925 and 1935. Then, the Du Pont Company hired professional colorists to manage Duco Finish, a quick-drying lacquer developed for the auto industry. As fashion intermediaries, colorists brought important new skills to Du Pont, helping the chemical giant to manage aesthetic risk. More important, they paved the way for the professionalization of design in Detroit, prefiguring the work of high-profile stylists like Harley J. Earl.