Paint Analysis - Colors

Frank S. Welsh

[Welsh Color & Conservation] is one of the most renowned and experienced analytical laboratories in the United States specializing in the restoration and preservation of historic finishes primarily related to historic buildings but also to fine art and antiques. The company, provides expert paint analysis and wallpaper analysis for determining original colors and decorative painting techniques, plus pigment analysis and fiber analysis for authentication of fine art.

May 11, 2024

FSW Fall of 2007, by Ross Watson 2Dear Friends and Colleagues:

On Friday May 10, 2024, I took the momentous step of closing the doors of my consulting business to any new projects, intending to complete all that are either presently under discussion or now underway by the end of this year. At that time the business will be officially closed.

As I reflect on this decision, my mind drifts back exactly 50 years to May 10, 1974, when I left the National Park Service (NPS) in Philadelphia where I had started two years before. It was at Independence National Historical Park that my journey into the restoration of historic buildings and the fascinating realm of investigating and micro analyzing historic paints began.

Throughout my career, I have been incredibly fortunate to have received invaluable guidance, mentoring, and support from a host of remarkable individuals. Among them, I must express my deepest gratitude to some key figures who have shaped my path:  First and foremost, my mother, Suzanne Sagendorph Welsh, whose profound knowledge and dedication to the painted decoration of antique furniture and historic buildings laid the foundation for my pursuits in historic preservation. Lee Nelson and Penelope H. Batcheler, architects for the NPS at Independence Park, who not only taught me the fundamentals of investigating historic buildings and the microanalysis of historic paint but also encouraged me to start writing and publishing, with my first article appearing in the APT Bulletin. Rick Kearns at Historic Annapolis and Charles Granquist at Monticello, whose interest propelled my career forward in the 1970s and 1980s in countless ways. Dick Fitch and Ed Stulb at Turco Paint and Varnish Co. in Philadelphia, who generously shared their knowledge about the manufacture of modern paints by allowing me to work in their factory. Walter C. McCrone, the preeminent chemical microscopist in Chicago, who took me under his wing and personally tutored me for many years in the use of the Polarizing Light Microscope for the analysis and identification of paint pigments, vehicles, and fibers. Lastly, Weecha Crawford, chair of the geology department at Bryn Mawr College and MacArthur Fellowship recipient, whose gracious mentorship advanced my interest and knowledge in crystallography and microscopy at a crucial juncture when I was researching my final article that was on Brown Zinc Paint at the U.S. Capitol published in the Bulletin of APT.

There have been many others who either promoted or supported me in many ways along the journey, a select few include the following (lamentably some of whom have passed away): John Milner (Chadds Ford), Roger Moss (Philadelphia), Nicholas Giannopoulos (Philadelphia), Orin Bullock (Rising Sun), Bryden Hyde (Baltimore), St. Claire Wright (Annapolis), Bill Short (Princeton), Nicholas Pappas (Williamsburg), Kevin Sarring (Washington, DC) Nicholas Holmes (Mobile), Herschel Shepard (Jacksonville), Kelly Steele (United States Senate), Susan Turner (Atlanta), Elise Johnson Schmidt (Corning) and of course, George Skarmeas (Philadelphia). And finally, my team, which over the years helped so much, either in the office and/or in the field: Helen, Silvia, Kim, Cathy, Katie, and of course, my gruff but always generous office landlord, renowned photographer and friend, Ross Watson, for over 30 years. To all, I am especially appreciative.

My career trajectory was one that unfolded organically; it was not a predefined profession at the time. For me, and for the field of historic preservation, it simply emerged, and I consider myself exceptionally fortunate for being the first in this country to essentially create and specialize in this field. Along this remarkable journey, I delved deep into American history, traversed 32 states across the country, including Hawaii, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. I had the honor of contributing to projects spanning from the early 1700s to the mid-20th century, from iconic landmarks like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, and the United States Capitol, to architectural marvels like Grand Central Terminal, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, and Aero Saarinen’s Dulles Airport. I've meticulously archived files on over 1750 projects and collected more than 50,000 paint samples, each holding a special place in my heart alongside countless cherished memories of the people I encountered along the way. In addition, I've authored 25 articles, contributed two chapters to books on historic paints and colors, published a newsletter, received two research grants, and been honored with two awards from the Association for Preservation Technology.

However, after decades of devoted service, the time arrived for me to bid farewell to this chapter of my life. To my wife, Margaret, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Monticello and who has guided, coached, and advised me for so many years, I am forever indebted. As I look ahead, I am eager to embark on new interests and endeavors, hopeful that they will be as enriching and fulfilling as my lifelong passions for historic paint, architecture, and American history – not to mention possible extended road trips in my 1959 Borgward Isabella Saloon, which still retains its original creamy yellow paint—a cherished companion on the road to new adventures!


Isabella at Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA

With warm regards,
Frank S. Welsh