Aw man....I knew DaVinci was a cheat!
Remember these? Paint by Numbers kits? I'll bet most of you did one, or if not, then something very similar. There's all sorts of coloring books that need crayons or markers. heck, they even had black light-velvet posters for when you got into high school.
And some kits featured puffy paints! Remember the puffy paint? Or, you could even get a color by numbers t-shirt kit!
I had the sort of relatives, you know, aunt's, uncles, grandparents, who thought these types of kits were the bee's knee's. Hardly a gift giving holiday gathering past by where I didn't receive some sort of color by the numbers kit.
And, chances are, if you're in your 40's like me, you received your fair share of them too.
I also remember when latch hook rugs were popular. I got a lot of those, too.
But today, we're talking about paint by the numbers.
They were invented in 1950 by one Max Kline, the owner of Palmer Paint Company, and Dan Robbins, who was a commercial artist.
In 1950, America was starting to come to terms to something that was fairly new in their lives; free time. People had free time throughout history, but in the days after WWII, the amount of free time exploded with the development of modern conveniences that required less time to do simple tasks.
Kline and Robbins created the kits give people something to do. And, boy howdy, did people take to the kits. They sold over 12 million of them in the first year alone.
One of it's more famous fans was none other than Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Or, as he preferred to be called, Mr. President. Ike loved art, and was fond of painting. Before the kits were available, he would have friends draw pictures for him to paint. When the kits came out, he could finally bypass the added step.
The fad grew so popular in the 50's that museums held exhibits containing nothing but paint by the numbers pieces. You couldn't throw a rock without someone who was painting by the numbers.
And, while it slowly faded, it has never totally died. You can still find kits in most large stores. Some people just love to paint, and this gives them a way.
In May of 2011, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the original paint by the numbers kit, Dan Robbins released a limited edition kit. (Kline had died in 1993). This special kit depicted the twin towers standing in spirit over the Manhattan skyline, and was meant as a tribute to those who died on that fateful Tuesday in 2001.
And then, the 70's happened. Oh god....the 70's. A new fad hit. It was something that had been around since the early 19th century: rug hooking. Workers in factories where cloths were produced were allowed to collect and take home the useless cut off ends of yarn that measured about 9 inches long. After they collected enough, they would loop them through a backing and make themselves cheap rugs or wall hangings.
In the 1920's someone modified the hooked needle used in woolen mills into a hand held tool. This sped up the home production of rugs. These rugs weren't made for fun, though. They were made out of necessity.
The people who made them were typically poor. They used any scrap they could to make rugs. It wasn't until the 1930's that someone decided to start making rugs out of standard length material. This improved the look and quality of the rugs. Richer people started to notice these tiny works of art, and started purchasing them from the people who made them.
Eventually, someone came up with the idea of making them into a kit. They supplied the tool, the yarn and the backing, which was color coded so the user knew what color yarn to put where.
By the 70's, these kits were hugely popular. And, if the neighborhood I lived in was any indication, everybody in America was making these crappy rugs. Personally, I remember making a few Snoopy ones. (hey, I was....like....6....leave me alone)
The latch hook rug craze died sometime in the 80's, but, like paint by the numbers, it never went away. These days, you can still buy kits all over the place. And, I'll admit....if they had this kit in 1980, I would have hounded my parents until they bought me one.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our little trip into the crappy fads of the past. I could do a whole series of posts on crappy fads. (Pogs, anyone?)