In my last post on the history of Kohler colors, I explored the ‘20s and ‘30s, when Kohler first introduced color to the bathroom.
Things changed dramatically in the 1940s. World War II forced many companies, including Kohler, to use their resources to provide for the military. Kohler’s focus became the manufacture of artillery shells, submarine torpedo tubes, aircraft controls and other military goods.
The focus on the war heavily influenced the colors of the era. Brass was a vital war material, as was iron. In fact, Kohler made “Win-the-War” fittings of cast iron with a special protective coating. The May 1942 issue of the Kohler of Kohler News carried the first reference to a new finish for cast iron: Baked black plastic.
In July, 1942, the News reported that “chromium plating was eliminated early in the year, and in the place of copper and brass, alternates such as iron, glass and plastics were adopted for plumbing fittings, except for a few working parts…where…there is no satisfactory substitute for brass.”
Soil-hiding khaki and olive green, as well as patriotic reds and blues, became the standard color palette, in both fashion and the home. In fact, the American textile industry even restricted the number of colors available for fabric, thus suppressing the appetite for new colors even further. With the demand for color fading, Kohler discontinued Lavender, Autumn Brown, and Rouge in 1944.
In 1945, Kohler received the coveted Army-Navy E Award for excellence in manufacturing supplies for the military. That same year, Kohler introduced a new color: Spruce Green.
As the war came to an end, Kohler converted back to peacetime production. It became one of the first major plumbing manufacturers to market “a staple line of fixtures for small homes” to meet the needs of the many military personnel returning home.
With color and good spirits returning to the home and the country, Kohler introduced the concept of the “powder room,” in 1948. Brochures and ads described it as: “A downstairs washroom in addition to the upstairs bathroom.”
The hardships and strife of the ‘40s gave way to the sunny 1950s. More about that in the next installment.