Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory - Gloucester, MA
N 42° 36.390 W 070° 39.634
19T E 363787 N 4718455
Quick Description: The Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory in Gloucester is a landmark leaving the harbor of Gloucester, MA.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 9/12/2010 6:07:31 AM
Waymark Code: WM9P1D
This building is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1863, James G. Tarr and Augustus H. Wonson began manufacturing America’s first copper paint. The Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory played a vital role in international maritime history, as well as in the development of Gloucester, Massachusetts as a major fishing port.
Prior to the conclusion of the Civil War, schooners were still the craft of choice for harvesting the sea. They also comprised some of this country’s armada. The bottoms of these vessels were plagued with barnacles, grass, and other forms of marine life. As early as ancient Egypt, ship captains had attempted, by various means, to repress or prevent this problem, because when vast masses of this growth clung to the boat bottom, power requirements increased, speed decreased, maneuverability was impaired, and the very safety of the boat and crew was threatened by worms destroying the boat bottoms’ integrity. Before the invention of copper paint, boats were sheathed in metal to address these problems but this was an expensive and cumbersome solution.
Many experiments preceded the development of copper bottom paint. Augustus Wonson and his son Gardiner applied various mixtures to shingles and submerged them in the harbor for testing. Success came with a mixture of copper oxide, naptha or benzene, and pine tar. With the use of this copper paint, the slick bottoms of boats became less subject to fouling, and thus these boats were faster, providing an advantage in battle as well as in chasing fish commercially. The copper paint made on Rocky Neck was shipped all over the world and won many national and international awards for excellence.
For well over a century, the restrained and dignified buildings of the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory have remained a prominent waterfront landmark and gateway to Gloucester’s inner harbor. The Massachusetts Historical Commission has deemed it eligible for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places as an example of a small 19th-century industrial complex and because of its important associations with Gloucester’s marine history. Countless painters and photographers have captured its red brick and wooden walls. It is Gloucester Harbor’s icon and most visible sculptural presence. The Paint Factory has witnessed the departure from this port of many generations of mariners, and it signals a safe return home and a welcome to all who enter the Port of Gloucester.
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