Bay State decorative color guide

Catharine Dann Roeber was teaching a course in interior design when the “super sweet, super cool” Bay State Decorative Colorguide came into the library collection a few years ago as a gift from Sandra and Hyman Myers. “It was kind of like love at first sight,” says Roeber, the Brock W. Jobe Associate Professor of Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Winterthur. “It’s a like a television that helps me imagine the past.”

Various knobs control trim, walls, furniture, ceilings, and floor for dialing in custom color combinations.

Created by Wadsworth, Howland & Co. of Boston, Mass., the hand-operated box from about 1930 features five dials that allow the user to create and view various color and decoration schemes in a series of rooms, just as we would use a design app or website to redesign our homes today. One of only two such objects known to exist, it was likely used by a traveling salesman to market the company’s Bay State brand of paints to middle-class consumers. 

“It’s interesting and fun because it has that moveable aspect,” Dann Roeber says. “It’s something you wouldn’t think of at Winterthur, but everyone decorates, so it has a universal appeal.”

Bay State Decorative Colorguide

Created by Wadsworth, Howland & Co. of Boston, Mass. 

Circa 1930

Unknown manufacturer

Call number TP937 B35 TC F