Magnet pictures a fun 1953 advertisement for Picture Craft paint-by-number oil painting kits, endorsed by the entire Nelson family of Ozzie and Harriet TV sitcom fame, Including Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky. The Nelson's helped shape our concept of the perfect American family of the 50s and laid the foundation for Ricky Nelson's later rock and roll stardom.
In this advertisement David and Ricky do some verbal sparring while David works on Picture Craft's 33R Mallards in Flight, a 1952 release, and Ricky on #34J Mediterranean Scene, probably also from 1952. The whole family gathers to hold an incomplete #26L Desert Scene from 1953.
There probably wasn't a household in America in the 1950s that hadn't tried at least one paint-by--number kit. Kids, parents, grandparents, soldiers, Hollywood stars and presidents, everyone seemed to try their hand.
The advertisement pictured on the magnet boasted of 35 different 12" x 16" designs in the Picture Craft lineup, for $2.95 each. The kits were sold in dime stores, drug stores, stationery stores and department stores.
According to William L. Bird Jr. of the Smithsonian, Picture Craft, a picture frame manufacturer and sign company, and Palmer Show Card Paint, a Detroit tempera paint manufacturer, were developing paint by number (PBN) kits simultaneously in the late 1940s. Palmer's Craft Master was first to the mass market but soon there were 3 dozen players, and Picture Craft shared the lion's share of the market with Craft Master and Master Artists Materials of Brooklyn, NY.
Picture Craft was founded by Ralph Emery Grossman (1893-1971) and his wife, Loxa Davis Grossman (1894-1983), and operated from 790 N. Water Street in Decatur, Illinois. The firm sold frames and brushes in addition to painting kits. An artist, in 1938 Ralph started a sign painting company and in 1945 began producing paint by number kits with rolled canvas and using cottage labor for assembly and packaging. Those early kits were sold to the military as mystery subjects: the subject matter wasn't revealed until the painting was completed. Reportedly Loxa painted their first painting template, one of Ralph's sketches on a window shade. Commercial artist Royce H. Caron of Sault St. Marie, Michigan soon became involved in Picture Craft. The Grossmans applied for and were granted various patents on their painting kits, and in early 1949 copyrighted paint by number parrots and birds of paradise, By 1957 Ralph was involved in inventing paint dispensing equipment.
For an interesting history of another of the paint-by-numbers manufacturers see Deanna Dahlsad's website about Craftsmaster. To see the 21 designs Picture Craft offered as part of its 15th anniversary promotion in 1953, as well as dozens of other Picture Craft kits and several informative articles, visit the Paint by Number Museum.