Domestic Engine Colors

| January/February 1992

220 E. Washington St., West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380

What color should I paint my Domestic? Here's a question I'm often asked. It's not a question that has a simple, single answer, but here is some information that may help.

First, Domestic Engine and Pump Co. used one of (at least) three colors on various engines they manufactured at Shippensburg, Pa., between 1904 and 1952, when the last engine was shipped. These were maroon, dark green, and medium gray. (It is important to note that the engine record books, which list many facts about each engine shipped, do not specify the engine's color.) The most widely used color was the dark maroon (sometimes called 'black cherry' or 'oxblood'). I believe this color was used on virtually all of the Type 'A', ignitor-fired engines. This frequently is seen faded to a lighter red. The primer used was often a red lead, and this is sometimes all that's visible of the original factory paint.

The second color, which appeared in the early teens, was a dark green, called 'Brewster green' by some. This has been found primarily on the Type 'F' sparkplug engines, but many of this type, too, were painted maroon. The third color, which I've seen used only on Type 'F' engines, was a medium gray. This color appears to have first been used in the 1920s, and seems to have shifted more toward a blue gray, in later production, based on examination of several 1930s and post-WW II engines.

I've scanned the extensive factory archives obtained when the plant was closed in 1983, and very little information on product color is to be found there. The examination of existing engines with 'original' paint therefore has had to be relied upon, to find good color matches for use in restoration work. The available evidence clearly shows, however, that there was not a single 'Domestic Red,' as there is a 'Farmall Red' or 'John Deere Green.' Domestic Engine and Pump Co. was never a high-volume producer; in their best years, a thousand or so engines were finished and shipped. Paint was purchased in small quantities, and may even have been tinted to suit the taste of the paint shop foreman or individual painter. In the 1910-1920 period, I've learned, three men did most of the painting; when times were slow, one man did painting, along with other tasks.

I've owned several Domestic engines which had most of their original paint, were built in the 1911-1913 period, and had been indoors for most if not all of their lives. No two are exactly the same color, nor do they match other engines from 1905 or 1922, for example. And, as noted above, the shades of gray used by the factory appear to have changed with time as well. I've personally observed fewer green engines, but suspect variations must have occurred in factory-applied colors here as well. All this simply says that there's no single correct Domestic red, green, or gray.