Collection documents the business activities of the Palmer Paint Sales Company creators and manufacturers of Craft Master Paint by Number kits. Materials Include mail order forms, photographs, advertisements, product information, newspaper and magazine articles, invoices, original artwork, trade literature, and scrapbooks.
Scope and Contents:
Collection documents the history and business activities of the Palmer Paint Sales Company primarily the sale of its products and in particular the Craft Master paint by number kits. The kits were sold as boxed sets starting with a canvas and later board printed with a blue line drawing. The drawing's numbered sections corresponded to specific paint colors which were also included in the kits along with brushes and instructions. The paint by number kits varied in size, detail, skill level, and targeted audience. The Palmer Paint Sales Company was not the only merchandiser of paint by number kits, but it was the largest and most prolific probably due to Klein's marketing skills and the artistic talents of the company's employees. The collection includes advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, invoices, mail order forms, scrapbooks, photographs, original artwork, and trade literature. It is arranged in fourteen series: Series 1, Advertising and Promotional Materials, 1952-1955, undated; Series 2, General Motors Corporation, undated; Series 3, Newspaper Articles, 1953-1954, undated; Series 4, Photographs, 1954, undated; Series 5, Transparencies, undated; Series 6, Painting and Sketch Sets, undated; Series 7, Sketches, undated; Series 8, Paintings, undated; Series 9, Paintings with Color Sketches, undated; Series 10, Paintings, Transparencies, and Sketches, undated; Series 11, Sketches, undated; Series 12, Scrapbooks, 1953-1957, undated; Series 13, Paint By Number Kits, undated; and Series 14, Sheet Music, undated
Collection is arranged in fourteen series.
Series 1, Advertising and Promotional Materials, 1952-1955, undated
Series 2, General Motors Corporation, undated
Series 3, Newspaper Articles, 1953-1954, undated
Series 4, Photographs, 1954, undated
Series 5, Transparencies, undated
Series 6, Painting and Sketch Sets, undated
Series 7, Sketches, undated
Series 8, Paintings, undated
Series 9, Paintings with Color Sketches, undated
Series 10, Paintings, Transparencies, and Sketches, undated
Series 11, Sketches, undated
Series 12, Scrapbooks, 1953-1957, undated
Series 13, Paint By Number Kits, undated
Series 14, Sheet Music, undated
Biographical / Historical:
The concept of paint by number was conceived in 1949 by Max Klein (1922-1993) engineer and owner of the Palmer Paint Sales Company and commercial artist John Daniel (Dan) Robbins (1925-2019). Klein was interested in increasing paint sales when he presented Dan Robbins, the company's creator of package designs and children's book illustrations, the challenge. Under the Craft Master name, they created kits with the assistance of other artists who helped Robbins with the task of making the outlines, creating transparent overlays, painting, printing, and proofing artwork. Both Klein's and Robbins's wives spent time painting samples for Craft Master to test and display. In 1959 Klein sold Craft Master which he set up as a separate company after the product became so successful. It has since gone through several ownerships.
Materials at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Every Man a Rembrandt! Episode 188, May 1954, demonstrates manufacturing painting sets with numbers. Palmer Paint Sales Company, Detroit, Michigan.
Materials at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Division of Social History, Exhibition Records Accession 04-069
Office of Exhibits Central, Exhibition Records Accession 08-051
Division of Social History, National Museum of American History
Materials at Other Organizations
Paint By Numbers Museum
Detroit Historical Society
Detroit Historical Museum
Museum of Modern Art
Related objects located in the Division of Home and Community Life (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
Collection donated by Jacquelyn Schiffman, September 21, 1997.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.