Before SDP: 1961-1972
This is a brief history of people and places involved in tole and decorative painting in the years directly leading up to the formation of the Society of Decorative Painters.
Marian Houghton MDA and her business partner establish Cambridge House in Kansas City. The business is one of the first “tole” shops in the Midwest, offering painting classes and supplies for the decorative painter at one location. Many instructors teach at Cambridge House, including Anita Gish, Pat Peniston MDA, Nadine Farquar MDA, and Pat Wakefield MDA.
Many other popular painters are active in the Kansas City area as well, including Joan Johnson MDA, Marge Pond, and Bette Byrd MDA.
A revival of interest in Early American folk art creates a market for home decor products. Retail giant of the time, Sears and Roebuck, responds to the trend by offering decals depicting Peter Ompir characters to decorate the new popular metal kitchen cabinets. This trend inspires a desire for beautiful handmade décor items, and homemakers, in an effort to personalize their environments, enroll in painting lessons. A demand is created for teachers to share the step-by-step method of decorative painting, a technique that is successful even if the student has "never held a brush before." To this day, step-by-step remains the teaching standard for decorative painting.
The Decorative Arts Institute, owned and operated by Marg Pond, offers a 24-week course in decorative painting. The highly successful home correspondence course includes paints, brushes, patterns, other supplies, and full color examples in a complete kit that is mailed to your door. Eager students across the country order the kits and learn this systematic method of painting. The predrawn patterns and step-by-step instructions allow a high degree of success without academic training or inherent drawing ability. The course is also taught in person, by Pond, at the Decorative Arts Institute in Wichita, Kan.
After completion of The Decorative Arts Institute course, many students find opportunities to sell their work. Designs are often painted on discarded tin surfaces that can be purchased at antique stores and flea markets. Popular surfaces include coffee pots, coal scuttles, match safes, milk cans, and saw blades. The trend continues to grow, and teachers are sought after. Doxie Keller TDA, would later twice be elected president of the Society of Decorative Painters, begins teaching classes in tole painting at the Leisure Arts Center in Hutchinson, Kan.
A demand for color printed patterns prompts Joan Johnson MDA and her husband Howard to design, print, and sell full-color lesson packets with step-by-step instructions. Many books and other products follow, including the Painter True Series Tole Painting Books by Joan Johnson MDA and the Pattern of the Month club. POMers, as they are called, receive monthly patterns by mail order. The framed paintings of the original POMs later become part of the Decorative Arts Collection, currently housed in Atlanta, Ga.
Jean Wortham publishes her first decorative painting book in Oklahoma City.
Priscilla Hauser MDA moves back to Tulsa from Independence, Mo. She opens Priscilla’s Little Red Tole House and envisions an organization for teachers of tole painting. She begins a start-up fund to realize her dream. Many painters contribute to the fund.
Priscilla continues to collect $5 donations from interested painters with the goal of establishing the Society. Many of the contributors are her students, eighty-eight of which contribute to the fund.
The first painting magazine is published. Originally called Jean’s Turpen Times, it is a bimonthly publication owned and edited by Jean and Hal Wortham of Oklahoma City, Okla. It sells for $1.25 an issue and is also available by subscription.