1923 Duco Paint

Duco, a durable, quick-drying finish invented by DuPont, helped make the 1920s revolution in consumer goods mass production possible, becoming the standard finish on automobiles, hardware, appliances and toys. General Motors (GM) introduced Duco finish on its Oakland models in 1923 and it more than fulfilled expectations, reducing finish time from two weeks to two days and drastically cutting rejection rates.Show more

DuPont began producing nitrocellulose-based pyroxylin lacquers after acquiring the International Smokeless Powder & Solvents Company in 1905. The purchase of the Arlington Company 10 years later deepened the company’s involvement. Although they were quick-drying and widely used on brass fixtures, conventional lacquers were too brittle for more demanding uses. By the 1920s, however, the automotive industry had become a huge potential market. Although mass production had vastly increased output, finishing remained a bottleneck because conventional paints took up to two weeks to dry.


In 1920, chemists working with film at DuPont's Redpath Laboratory in Parlin, N.J., produced a thick pyroxylin lacquer which was quick-drying but durable and could be colored. DuPont marketed it under the name Viscolac in 1921. Assisted by General Motors (GM) engineers, DuPont refined the product further and renamed it Duco. The success of Duco led to further experimentation with finishes and late in the 1920s, DuPont developed Dulux, an even more effective alkyd finish. Duco retained a niche market, however, and DuPont continued to produce it at Parlin until the late 1960s.


DuPont has been using Dulux enamel in automotive coatings since 1926. Dulux actually owes its existence to a flaw in its more famous cousin, Duco. This nitrocellulose lacquer first brought color to automobiles when General Motors (GM) used it in 1923. It was thick and quick-drying, which pleased carmakers, but frustrating for consumers who couldn't apply it like the oil-based paints they were used to. So DuPont researchers tried mixing synthetic alkyd resins with oil and found that the resulting enamel's drying time was slower than Duco but faster than that of traditional oil paint. Dulux alkyd resin, named in 1926, also had a pleasing high-gloss look. By the early 1930s it won over consumers under the label Dulux "Brush" Duco.


Dulux high-gloss enamels were also used widely in the 1930s on refrigerators and washing machines, outdoor signs, gasoline service stations and pumps, and railroad cars. Once tried as an undercoating for Duco auto paint, Dulux also found a niche as a low-cost alternative to Duco auto finishes. In 1954 some automobile manufacturers chose an improved Dulux alkyd enamel over Duco, and over DuPont's new water-based Lucite acrylic lacquer. However, Lucite soon pulled ahead in household sales, and after DuPont developed a new acrylic polymer in 1957, Lucite also outshone Dulux in the appliance and industrial markets. DuPont sold its consumer paint business in 1983.