Driving along the countryside and coming across a bright, red, beautiful barn is enough to make you want to pull over and grab a photo of quintessential Americana. If I had a barn I'd want it to be fire engine red, too because that feels and looks so traditional.

However, those beautifully bright red barns we see aren't the true, original red because it wasn't simply red paint when paint didn't exist yet. Burnt orange red is actually the real red if you want to be specific according to the How Stuff Works website.

You see, according to How Stuff Works, European farmers would seal the wood on their barns with a brownish-orange oil that comes from the seed of the flax plant. This tawny linseed-oil mixture included milk and lime as well. This combo was super-long lasting and hardened quickly.

So where does the red color come in?

Well, it started with wealthy farmers who added blood to their mixture after slaughtering one of their farm animals. It was a status things apparently because they could just kill an animal when they wanted to add another coat of red.


Now, whether the blood from the abundance of farm animals owned by wealthy agriculturalists is true is just a theory according to Bob Vila's website. If it is true, regular farmers who didn't have the luxury of killing an animal simply for a fresh coat of red on their barn instead used iron oxide which is rust and was readily available on all farms.

Rust also killed mold and moss that would grow on barns and trap moisture causing the wood to decay so even the wealthy added it to their mixture sometimes.

As European farmers migrated to America they brought the fashionable red barn trend with them. Eventually, in the mid to late1800s when paint became a thing, the color red was the most expensive because of red barns being the popular, cool kids table way to go.

Dan Cutler
Dan Cutler

Eventually the whitewashing of barns became more popular than red because it was cheaper than red paint and eventually red paint dropped in price according to Bob Vila.

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