Our History

Innovation matters. Safety matters. Every employee matters. Quality matters. Leadership matters.

If it matters, we’re on it.

The Valspar Corporation is the fifth largest North American manufacturer of paints and coatings, a business it has engaged in since 1806. Its sterling reputation was built on the Valspar varnish, which was unveiled in 1906 as the first coating for wood that retained its clear finish when exposed to water. For most of its long history Valspar was a relatively small manufacturer. During the last thirty years, however, it has achieved Fortune 1000 status through an aggressive acquisition campaign.

For over 200 years, Valspar’s innovative paints and coatings have enhanced iconic buildings and the world’s best-known brands. From Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis to the Hong Kong Convention Center, from a Coca-Cola can to a Yamaha grand piano. From the green that defines John Deere to Coca-Cola red. Creating high quality functional and decorative coatings for leaders in a variety of industries . . . from Caterpillar to Thomasville to James Hardie.

19th-Century Origins

In 1806 Samuel Tuck opened a paint dealership, called Paint and Color on Boston’s Broad Street.

In 1820 two businessmen in Cambridge, Massachusetts began the first commercial production of varnishes in the United States, a business that was to become Valspar's cornerstone for more than a century.

In 1832 these two businesses merged to become Stimson & Valentine. Although popularly known as 'varnish manufacturers,' the company also conducted an import and retail trade in paints, oils, glass, and beeswax. Around 1860 Valentine brothers Lawson and Henry became sole partners in the business and it was renamed Valentine & Company.

Shortly thereafter, Lawson Valentine made a singularly important decision: he hired a chemist, Charles Homer, brother of famed New England artist Winslow Homer. According to the Valspar History, Homer 'made varnishes so perfect they could be poured from the can to the back or side of a carriage ... varnishes that flow out smoothly and evenly and dry perfectly.'

The business relocated to New York City in 1870. Valentine & Company began to specialize in vehicle finishing varnishes that were competitive with widely prized English varnishes. The company operated a West Coast office with Whittier, Fuller & Company (later renamed W.P. Fuller & Company) as its representative. In 1878 Valentine & Company entered the Midwest market via a Chicago branch office. Four years later Henry Valentine succeeded his brother as president and the company renewed its Boston ties by reopening a plant there. By the turn of the century, Valentine & Company had established additional operations in Pennsylvania as well as Paris, and had won dozens of international medals for its high-quality varnishes.

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Early 20th Century: Valspar Varnish

Lawson Valentine's grandson, L. Valentine Pulsifer, joined the company in 1903 after receiving his degree in chemistry from Harvard University. Three years later Pulsifer produced Valspar, the first clear varnish and factory production began within two years, accompanied by promotional stunts designed to highlight the product's unique features. The first such exhibition involved a boiling water test at the Grand Rapids Furniture Show in 1908. The following year, at the New York Motor Boat Show, Valspar and eight of the best competing brands were applied to a submarine in alternating stripes; the vessel was then submerged and 'gradually took on the appearance of a sea-going zebra, as the other varnishes whitened and Valspar remained clear.'

For the next few decades the company rode on the coattails of Valspar, supported by a strong national advertising campaign during the 1920s that made the product a household word with the tagline 'the varnish that won't turn white.' Pulsifer's invention, by virtue of its unparalleled appearance, durability, and ease of application, became a willing participant in a number of historic events. These included Admiral Robert Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909 and Charles Lindbergh's nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The unveiling of new products and the acquisition of other paint and varnish manufacturers helped Valentine & Company to successfully weather the Great Depression. Among the new products were Super Valspar, Four-Hour Valspar, Val-Oil Clear, Valenite Clear, Valenite Enamels, Three V Floor Varnish, and French Formula Enamel. Valentine & Company acquired Con-Ferro Paint and Varnish Company and Detroit-Graphite Company in 1930. In 1932, the Valentine & Company began to operate as a subsidiary of the newly formed Valspar Corporation.

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Formative Mergers: Rockcote (1958), Minnesota Paints (1970)

In 1958 Valspar merged with the Rockcote Paint Company and the headquarters were moved to Rockford, Illinois. Rockcote had been in the paint business for twenty-six years. Notable Rockcote subsidiaries were Color Corporation of America that was licensed to sell color systems to paint manufacturers and Midwest Synthetics that developed synthetic resins and resin-based varnishes.

Under the direction of Ralph and FJ Baudhuin, the 1960s represented a period of growth for Valspar. From the time of the Rockcote merger until the end of the decade, the company averaged almost two acquisitions per year. Among the businesses purchased were Norco Plastics, McMurtry Manufacturing, Keystone Paint and Varnish, and the trade sales division of Mobil Corporation. The company inaugurated the 1970s with an historic merger. In June 1970, privately held Minnesota Paints, Inc. of Minneapolis, with annual sales of $24M, merged with Valspar, with annual sales of $27M.Once again, Valspar's headquarters changed, this time to Minneapolis. Within two years, Valspar's earnings had grown to $1.5M and it was again ready to expand. The consecutive acquisitions of Phelan Faust Paint, Speed-O-Lac Chemical, Conchemco's Detroit Chemical Coatings, Elliott Paint and Varnish, and Conchemco's Coatings Division increased initial annual revenues by another $75M.

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1980s and Early 1990s: Acquisitions Continue

In 1973 C. Angus Wurtele former president of Minnesota Paints assumed the helm. At the time of Wurtele's succession approximately 60 percent of Valspar's sales came from its consumer business and the remainder came from industrial coatings. This alignment changed dramatically in 1984 with the $100M purchase of Mobil's chemical coatings business in 1984.Virtually overnight, the deal elevated Valspar from the tenth to the fifth largest coatings company in North America. In addition, it gave the manufacturer ready access to potentially high-margin markets, including packaging coatings and industrial metal finishes. Valspar acquisitions continued apace.

1987 Enterprise Paint Companies, maker of Enterprise Paint and the Federal floor care line, was purchased for $60 million.

1989 The McCloskey Corporation, with $42 million in sales, was acquired. The purchase was especially significant for the growth of Valspar's resin business, conducted through its McWhorter Inc. subsidiary.

1990 The company acquired certain assets of DeSoto, Inc., which had combined revenues of approximately $45 million. This purchase strengthened the company's market-leading packaging coatings group, and elevated it to a leader in coil and extrusion coatings for the construction industry.

1991 Hi-Tek Polymers, Inc. was acquired from Rhône Poulenc.

1993 The company announced an agreement to acquire Cargill Inc.'s resin products division, which had $190 million in revenues, but the deal would not be consummated as an outright acquisition. Valspar went ahead with the purchase, a $76 million in cash deal concluded in February 1994, and divided the combined resin operations into two separate companies: McWhorter Technologies, Inc. and Engineered Polymer Solutions, Inc. What Valspar gained from this complicated deal was new technology for its own coatings business.

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Mid-to-Late 1990s and Beyond

During 1994 Richard Rompala joined Valspar as the new president, becoming CEO the following year, and chairman in 1998.

In 1996 and 1997 Valspar completed a two-stage acquisition of the Coates Coatings unit of TOTAL S.A., which included packaging coatings and metal decorating inks operations in the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Germany, Spain, Australia, Hong Kong, and China. During 1998 the company purchased Anzol Pty. Ltd., a maker of packaging and industrial coatings and resins based in Australia, and the packaging coatings business of Dexter Corporation. The operations acquired from Dexter, which were particularly strong in Europe, had 1997 revenues of $208 million, vaulting Valspar into the number one position worldwide in packaging coatings. Valspar's consumer unit, meantime, also expanded internationally, through the 1998 acquisition of Plasti-Kote Co., Inc., a maker of consumer aerosol and specialty paint products in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

In 1999 Valspar celebrated a milestone of 25 consecutive years of record earnings. The acquisition of Dyflex B.V., a Dutch resin manufacturer, helped to further support European customers, and the acquisition of the remaining interest in Farboil’s Powder Coatings helped to provide additional capacity and sales in one of the fastest growing areas of the coatings industry.

Also in 1999 Valspar sold their Flexible Packaging Coatings and Marine Coatings product lines in order to focus on achieving and maintaining leadership positions in other, more strategic coatings markets.

In February 2000, after 30 years as a director of Valspar, including 25 years as Chairman of the Board, C. Angus Wurtele resigned his position from the Board. Wurtele’s vision and dedication to excellence built a lasting legacy.

Rich Rompala took over as Valspar’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

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The New Millennium

In June 2000, Valspar acquired Lilly Industries, Inc., a leading industrial coatings company with an extensive global presence, strong technologies and product lines complementary to Valspar’s. This acquisition moved Valspar into the number six position in worldwide coatings. Lilly also brought Valspar a broadened industrial coatings product line.

By the end of 2000, Valspar had acquired the remaining 49 percent of their joint venture with Coates in South Africa and the remaining interest of their joint venture partner in Mexico.

In 2001, Valspar opened a new facility in Shanghai and began construction of a new wood coatings laboratory and color studio in Dongguan. Valspar’s American Tradition consumer paint, sold exclusively at Lowe’s stores, achieved national recognition. In December, Valspar announced the purchase of selected coil and other assets of Technical Coatings, thereby bolstering coil coatings sales.

Valspar continued to grow globally. By 2002, 25 percent of total sales were made up of sales outside the United States. Growth in Asia wood and coil coatings product lines, as well as strong growth in the European packaging coatings, the assumption of 100 percent ownership of former joint venture partnerships in Brazil and the Netherlands, a new color studio for wood coatings in China and a distribution facility in Vietnam all helped to strengthen Valspar’s global position.

Sales of all product lines increased in 2003, led by Valspar’s consumer products. Packaging had an excellent year, and several new can coating technologies differentiating Valspar’s leadership position were introduced. A focus on safety improvements placed Valspar in the elite class of safest manufacturers in the United States, with an improvement of 20% over 2002 performance. Valspar began a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and was selected as Habitat’s national supplier of paint to all Habitat affiliates.

In 2004 Valspar achieved record revenues of $2.5 Billion, revenue growth in all major business lines and in every geographical region of the world, record net income, record earnings per share and its 27th consecutive year of annual dividend increase. Valspar acquired De Beer Lakfabrieken B.V., a privately owned manufacturer and distributor of automotive refinish coatings based in The Netherlands, and selected assets of the forest product lines of Associated Chemists, based in Orangeburg, South Carolina. A new consumer paint manufacturing and distribution facility was opened in eastern Pennsylvania that helped to provide new infrastructure for organic growth.

Rich Rompala retired from Valspar after ten years as chief executive officer and seven years as chairman. His commitment to safety led Valspar to achieve world-class safety performance, and his growth vision helped to transform Valspar from a domestic paint company to a $2.5 billion global leader in the coatings industry.

In February of 2005, Bill Mansfield succeeded Rompala as President and Chief Executive Officer, and Tom McBurney was elected non-executive Chairman of the Board in July. Valspar acquired the Cabot stain business. And by the end of 2005, Valspar saw its 199th year of doing business in the coatings industry.

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200 Years of Valspar History - and Looking Forward

Valspar celebrated its 200th year in the coatings industry in 2006 and sales reached nearly $3 billion. International sales grew to over 30 percent of total sales. Valspar acquired 80 percent interest in Huarun Paints, a leading supplier of furniture, decorative wood and consumer coatings in China. In October, Valspar announced the acquisition of H.B. Fuller’s powder coatings business, providing Valspar its first powder manufacturing capacity in Europe. Subsequent to year-end, an agreement was made to enter into a joint venture with Tekno S.A. to supply coil coatings in Brazil. These two transactions extended Valspar’s global reach of their industrial product line.

In December a new powder coatings plant was opened in Shanghai, further demonstrating Valspar’s commitment to global growth and commitment to the support of global customers.

Since 1806, if it mattered, Valspar was on it. Our 200 year heritage is the foundation to build a differentiated and significant brand. Beginning in 2007, Valspar is introducing, “If it matters, we’re on it™” as the expression portraying its history as a leader in the coatings industry, while capturing the integrity and spirit of Valspar. Our investment in building consumer awareness will be supported by a strong field sales support organization and a newly designed consumer website at www.valsparpaint.com. Global Valspar will be reachable by logging on to www.valsparglobal.com.

Innovation matters. Safety matters. Every employee matters. Quality matters. Leadership matters.

If it matters, we’re on it.

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Habitat for Humanity

With Valspar's national leadership, financial donations and in-kind support, dreams are coming true for homeowners who need it most.

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Valspar's Code of Ethics

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