Red barn in a garden scene
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The Unexpected Reason American Barns Are Traditionally Painted Red
Red has prevailed as the color of choice for farmers making an effort to preserve their barns because the hue was one of the easiest to achieve and most affordable back in the day.
Centuries ago, it became commonplace to mix up paint with linseed oil, magnesia silicate, and red soil containing iron oxide (also known as rust) to prevent wood from weathering.
The result was a durable paint that started the preference for red barns; in fact, 1884’s “Everybody's Paint Book” noted that Venetian Red was a suitable shade for outbuildings.
As time passed, paints were developed for commercial sale. By the early 1920s, outlets like the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog offered barn paint in a color described as oxide red.
Even with other choices available like maroon, yellow, and dark gray, red stuck as the main color of choice among most farmers and ranchers — and that tradition continues today.